annual report

Read the group's Annual Report for 2014-15

Our society is facing some fundamental challenges – rising levels of poverty, inequality and austerity, a housing crisis, and challenges facing children and young people and the prospect of climate crisis. This isn’t new, but our new government has key decisions ahead. These will ultimately shape the type of society that we become.

In such circumstances, the churches have a major role to play in sharing a positive ‘2020 Vision ‘of the kind of ‘Good Society’ we want to help create, locally, nationally and globally.

The best measure of society is how we treat the poorest and most vulnerable. A good society is one where the richest contribute most to eradicate poverty and improve society as a whole

Faith plays a pivotal role in our society. Many churches exist not as closed gatherings, but as communities with a deep concern for everyone living in their neighbourhood. Church Action on Poverty has encouraged those communities to tell their story, and asking "What does a Good Society mean to you?" What has emerged are many great projects that illustrate a dedication to caring for others, and a commitment to solid community-building. Their voices provide a challenge to the accepted role of faith and the church in seeking the common good.

The Impact of Welfare Reform on Communities and Households in Sheffield was published in November 2014 by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (Sheffield Hallam University) and commissioned by Sheffield City Council. This research documents, for the first time, the total impact of welfare reform experienced by different types of households and communities:

  • Some local communities of Sheffield residents are hit five times harder than others.
  • Almost half the financial losses fall on working households.
  • Couples with children lose an average of nearly £1,700.
  • Lone parents lose more than £2,000 a year.
  • Men and women with health problems or disabilities are also significantly disadvantaged.

Some of the campaigns and activities that the group has supported or undertaken during last year, include :

AGM 2014 Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform, gave a presentation entitled Counting the Cuts – a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Government Policy. He said in his opinion and by evidence gathered by the centre that the policies on austerity were introduced in theory to deal with the financial crisis, but in practice they have had a most unfair and cumulative impact on the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the community. Link to centre for welfare reform - http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/

2014 Pilgrimage, 18 October pilgrimage route included city-centre churches and other projects working with people in poverty and the vulnerable. In each year  we have decided to walk local churches have  encouraged us to visit them. This is a witness to the amount of work going on in communities in Sheffield. Pilgrims have said that they found the experience inspiring, and there was some evidence that there has been a “ripple effect” of inspiration to action amongst some church communities.

Poverty in Sheffield Today: Finding a Way Forward - 29 November 2014 organised by Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield, the People’s Assembly for Sheffield and Sheffield Equality Group.  The meeting was opened by the Bishop of Sheffield and included Jane Perry's report and the first public presentation of the results of the Listen Up! project - which involved in-depth interviews with people facing poverty in the Sheffield area. The information from these interviews was both disturbing and challenging. Other talks included: Food banks: Why we need them and how can we dispense with them? ‘The impact of benefit sanctions in Sheffield’ by Tim Arnold, author of Sheffield Citizens Advice Report. ‘Sheffield Fairness Commission: Progress in implementation’ by Professor Alan Walker, Commission Chair. The following resolution was passed unanimously: Gandhi said that “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members”.  We call upon those seeking to become Sheffield MP’s in the 2015 General Election to commit themselves to policies which will clearly improve the lives of vulnerable people in our city, whether employed or unemployed, and create fairness across the city.

Homelessness Service during Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, 15th February 2015 with Dr Alan Billings at Victoria Hall Methodist church. Canon Nick Jowett prepared and led the service, with the assistance of the  Revd Jonathan Haigh who hosted the service as minister of Victoria Hall.  We heard different voices from people who had been asked to share their visions of what makes a good society (caring for each other, offering love and support, feeling safe, and open to all), and then we shared our responses with our neighbours in church. Readings from Jeremiah (29. 1-7) and Matthew 5. 3-16 then led us into a thoughtful sermon from Canon Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. 

Civic Breakfast – 5 March “Children Young People and Families in Poverty”

Reflections from the Breakfast: by those attending

  • Child poverty is not inevitable- the UK is wealthy.
  • We must unashamedly confront the stigma being imposed on poorer families
  • We must campaign for  benefit sanctions to be suspended and reviewed
  • Things are worse- worse than 6 years ago, worse than the 80’s when there was some sort of shared toughness. Inequality is worse and this is reflected in Sheffield
  • Inequality will worsen if we have a recovery based on low wages and zero hour contracts
  • Going to meet  and listen to families where they are is essential
  • We need to decide as individuals and as leaders what we are prepared to do and it’s important to be amongst families rather than trying to fix them
  • Hallam Diocesan Justice and Peace Conference on What Makes  A Good Society? Pastoral Centre Sat 21 March 2015, with Amanda Bickerton: “A 2020 vision of society”

    Election 2015 Hustings on Immigration and Asylum, and Sheffield Central, were amongst those supported by us. Candidates were contacted by email to ask if they supported the resolution carried at the Poverty in Sheffield Today conference and some of them replied positively. Sheffield Citizens Advice Election Briefing 2015: copies are available

    What's next? Some of us will go tomorrow to the Sheffield Money Showcase in Hallam University to learn about new financial services available to the people of Sheffield.  A report will appear in our next “Poverty Update”.  And in the course of the year ahead we will be rolling out a programme of events to continue to raise awareness of the churches' role in our society.

    Thanks Grateful thanks are due to Sarah Baker for her work as our secretary, to Robert Carrack for his work as our treasurer, for producing our ‘Poverty Update’ newsletter, to Nick Waterfield for his work on the Sheffield CAP Facebook and Twitter websites, to our committee members for their participation, and to all the members of the Church Action on Poverty group for their support.

    Loving God, you made us in your image and inspire us with your story.   
    Bless us with dreams and visions which are big enough to see your kingdom.                                 Strengthen our hands and hearts as we work with Church Action on Poverty towards that good society where the promise of fullness of life is real for each and every one.
    We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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