30th anniversary conference kindles a flame!

Campaigners and MPs from across the country gathered in Manchester on Saturday 10 November 2012 to join Church Action on Poverty in calling for churches to join a new national movement to tackle UK poverty.

The ambitious five-year programme, Partnerships for Hope and Transformation, was launched at our 30th anniversary conference with a sermon from former St Paul's Cathedral canon, Revd Giles Fraser.

This new programme will include the training of more congregations to address economic hardship in their areas and tackle negative public perceptions of people in poverty.

Radio 4's Sunday programme were at the conference - you can listen to their report below, featuring interviews with a keynotes speaker and some of the participants in our grassroots programmes.

“We never wanted this to be a backward-looking celebration,” said Church Action on Poverty's National Coordinator Niall Cooper.
“The challenge of tackling poverty is as great now as it was 30 years ago. That is why we need to be a forward looking organisation and more ambitious for the future.”

Giles Fraser made headlines last year when he resigned from St Paul’s Cathedral after officials initially opposed Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters camped outside the building.

Giving a sermon to the conference, he urged the church to speak up about economic injustice and tackle consumerism.

“We will not transform [society] by being more generous – just another quid out the pocket – but by being Christians,” he said.
“We know the love of God is what will transform the world.”

Christian Aid director Loretta Minghella gave the keynote address.
She said: “We recognise that although the symptoms of poverty vary across the world, the root causes of poverty are the same. It is a great privilege for us to be here and to work together to develop our vision for a world without poverty.”

The conference, attended by over 100 supporters and partners from across the country, included testimonies from Church Action on Poverty's community programmes.

Thrive Teesside explained how their anti-debt campaign has persuaded the multi-million pound high-cost credit sector to improve its practices, helping 325,000 customers nationally.

Member Kath Carter said: “Thrive gave us the tools and we did the talking. All we are asking is that local communities stand up and say, this is wrong; we can put it right.”

Through our Close the Gap campaign, Church Action on Poverty has also been demanding that employers introduce the Living Wage of £7.45. The General Synod of the Church of England is set to discuss the issue later this month.

Kate Plant, from the Sheffield Church Action on Poverty group, explained how just £3,600 was all it took to enable her diocese to introduce a living wage. She said: “Church Action on Poverty has really kept up the challenge. They have given us the confidence to take it forward. We hope that now other local businesses and employers will take up the campaign.”

Although comparatively small – with a permanent staff of just 15 and an annual turnover of  £800,000 – Church Action on Poverty has had an impact on the lives of more than a half a million people across the UK since it was established in 1982.

Alison Jackson, member of the Methodist Church's strategy and resources committee, said: “I think that the important thing about Church Action on Poverty is that they empower local people who are living in poverty to change their own situations.”

The conference also saw the launch of Powered by People UK, a new community organising network.

Click here to read Christian Today's report on the conference.

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