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Monica Gregory, who works with homeless people in Oxford, has been speaking out as part of our Food Power programme. We talked to her about the importance of dignity, agency and power.

Monica works with Good Food Oxford, one of the local food poverty alliances involved from early on in Food Power. She found confidence through speaking out alongside other people in Food Power, highlighting the poverty that exists in Oxford but is often not acknowledged.

“It doesn’t matter what people think of you, you know, as long as you believe in yourself and you love yourself. Just look in the mirror and tell yourself that you know that you love yourself and that you are worthy. Don’t ever give up.”

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

“All it needs is people willing to listen”

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

Our partners at the 'Life on the Breadline' research programme have announced two new briefings for policy-makers, looking at how they can work together with churches to tackle poverty.

Here’s the announcement from the ‘Life on the Breadline’ team:

Following our Life on the Breadline Report for Policymakers which was published at the start of July 2021, we are pleased to publish two policy briefings which accompany the report:

  • The first briefing makes recommendations for how policymakers and Church leaders can work together to address poverty in the UK.
  • The second briefing makes welfare and economic policy recommendations for reducing levels of poverty in the UK.

These have been written for national and regional policy-makers across the UK to support Christian responses to poverty and to develop more effective anti-poverty policies.  Importantly, they are about Christians responding to poverty experienced by people of any or no faith, not simply Christians working with Christians.

Each recommendation in the briefing is accompanied by a series of specific actions for policymakers to engage with in both local and national contexts.

Both briefings can be accessed through the above links, or by clicking on the image below, to download, read, and share.

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

“All it needs is people willing to listen”

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

Dr Stephanie Denning looks back at what our partners at the 'Life on the Breadline' research programme learned over the last three years. How have Christians responded to poverty during austerity?

Image credit: Beth Waters and Life on the Breadline

More than 15 million people are living in poverty in the UK (Legatum Institute, 2021).  So how are Christians responding to poverty in the UK?

Life on the Breadline has been a three-year research project (2018–21) analysing Christian responses to poverty in the UK during the ‘age of austerity’.  Together the project team – Chris Shannahan, Robert Beckford, Peter Scott, and Stephanie Denning – have undertaken the most in-depth empirical theological analysis to date of poverty in the UK. 

The most recent period of austerity in the UK began over a decade ago following the 2008 global financial crisis.  Visit the Life on the Breadline austerity timeline to learn about key austerity policies and how austerity has affected people’s daily lives.

During the research we interviewed national Church leaders in the UK, undertook an online survey with regional Church leaders in the UK, and spent time with six case studies of groups and projects responding to poverty in different ways. One of our case studies, and our project partner, has been Church Action on Poverty. 

 

Our participants in the Life on the Breadline research

Voices from the grassroots: Life on the Breadline photographic exhibition at Coventry Cathedral

This July, Coventry Cathedral is hosting the Life on the Breadline photographic exhibition.  This is one way in which we are featuring the findings from our research from our time with our six case studies in Birmingham, London, and Manchester.

The exhibition features photographs from our Life on the Breadline grassroots case studies which challenge the way we think about people’s experience of poverty in the UK and how Christians have responded to poverty during the ‘age of austerity’.  The photographs have been taken by the research team and by local residents, volunteers, and staff at the six case study projects.

This short film below gives a taster of the exhibition with reflections from visitors at the exhibition launch:

The exhibition shows that there are many ways that Christians are responding to poverty in the UK, from foodbanks to food pantries, to campaigning on housing injustice and responding to serious youth violence.  Our Life on the Breadline case studies show that these different responses can often overlap – for example, one group or project can both respond to poverty through social action, and campaign for change on the causes of poverty.  Importantly, our research also shows that not every case study defined their work in terms of poverty, recognising the stigma and negative stereotypes that can be associated with the language of poverty.

From the exhibition: Church Action on Poverty’s Your Local Pantry network has adapted and grown in response to the pandemic. Credit: Madeleine Penfold

The exhibition runs in Coventry Cathedral until 28 July 2021 and is free to attend.  To manage Covid-19 restrictions, please book your free ticket here in advance.

Where can I find out more?

Visit the Life on the Breadline website to access a wide variety of resources: 

Dr Stephanie Denning works at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University.

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

“All it needs is people willing to listen”

1,000+ church leaders say: Don’t cut Universal Credit

SPARK newsletter autumn 2021

Lent course for 2022: Life on the Breadline

Our Cookery Book

Keep the Lifeline – sign our open letter to the Prime Minister

Seeking food justice in York

Jayne and Shaun’s story: creativity, self-reliance and truth

Sign the Anti-Poverty Charter!

Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

The story of a Cornish food and community revolution

“You are worthy. Don’t ever give up.”

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

Well over a thousand supporters of the Reset the Debt campaign wrote to their MPs to ask them to attend a debate on household debt in Parliament on 8 July. Thank you! 

In this guest post, Paul Morrison of the Joint Public Issues Team analyses what was said, and what needs to happen next:


The debate attracted a range of MPs from across the political spectrum, and while a wide range of views and issues were raised and there were disagreements, it was really encouraging to see areas of consensus among MPs.

Covid debt is a problem that needs attention

The most important area of agreement was that household debt is a problem that the lockdown has made much worse. The most quoted number came from a report by our friends at StepChange – that 11 million people in the UK have taken on around £25bn in debt during the pandemic.

There was also an acknowledgement that the effects of lockdowns had been grotesquely unequal, with those already struggling being forced to take on debt, while the more affluent were able to pay off debt and save.

It is great that Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum are now acknowledging the scale of the problem.

Addressing the problem

Contributors to the debate talked about the problems that were building in the system prior to the pandemic. There was a wish to improving lending practices and regulation. There was a recognition, of the reality that low-income families do need to borrow from time to time, so it is vital that ensure that cheap, non-exploitative credit is available.

Concern was expressed about family incomes. A number of contributors, including a Conservative MP, questioned the government’s decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week this September, and highlighted that many families coming for debt advice have “negative budgets” – where essential expenditure is greater than total income. The key point being that without adequate income, debt is both inevitable and unaffordable.

Covid household debt

The Reset the Debt campaign is asking that Government recognises that the debt racked up by low-income families during the pandemic the result of an extraordinary situation that requires an extraordinary response.

Genuinely affordable credit for low-income families, better regulation of the sector, and adequate incomes are hugely important – and it is fantastic that Parliament is wrestling with these issues. John Glen, the Government Minister who responded, outlined some welcome plans to make progress on this. We hope they will make things better over the long term, but for the families who had to borrow to survive over the pandemic, their budgets barely worked before the lockdown – so making their budget work with large debt repayments is unimaginable.

Responses to the Covid household debt crisis

The Reset the Debt campaign is asking for the Government to set up a fund to pay off the debts unavoidably racked up by some low-income families during the pandemic. There was some agreement that this debt is a special case, but no consensus around if or how policy should be changed to reflect this.

It was encouraging that some opposition members mentioned our proposals for a debt-write off and proposals from Stepchange for a “contingent loan” scheme to address the huge weight of household debt built during the pandemic. There is some acknowledgement that there needs to be a policy response to Covid household debt – but there is still much work to be done to build agreement around what an appropriate policy response should be.

The next step

Backbench debates rarely result in an immediate change of policy. They can however be an important step towards change by highlighting concerns, exposing areas of agreement and disagreement, and bringing forward new ideas. Thursday’s debate was a step forward.

So thank you to all those who were part of that first step who have taken actions as part of this campaign. Please keep following and share the campaign far and wide so we can gather more people to join in the next steps.

You can watch edited highlights of the debate below.

And if you haven’t contacted your MP about the Covid debt crisis, why not do that now?

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

“All it needs is people willing to listen”

1,000+ church leaders say: Don’t cut Universal Credit

SPARK newsletter autumn 2021

Lent course for 2022: Life on the Breadline

Our Cookery Book

Keep the Lifeline – sign our open letter to the Prime Minister

Seeking food justice in York

Jayne and Shaun’s story: creativity, self-reliance and truth

Sign the Anti-Poverty Charter!

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

As our Food Power programme draws to a close, see how people power has tackled food poverty.

Since 2017 the Food Power programme has been supporting alliances to tackle the root causes of food poverty, giving a voice to people with lived experience, and creating a network of sharing and learning. After four years, the programme is coming to an end in its current form. Help us mark the occasion by watching and sharing this new film showcasing some of the people that put the power in ‘Food Power’.

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

Poet Matt Sowerby harnesses the power and resolve of people in poverty.

Matt started using his skills as a route to social justice, when he became involved in the End Hunger UK campaign. From there, he hasn’t looked back. 

In 2020, he became poet in digital residence at Church Action on Poverty, and worked with fantastic campaigners around the country to produce Same Boat? a powerful anthology of poems based upon poverty and the pandemic. 

Poetry as a force for good

Church Action on Poverty supporters might recognise Matt, as he is the July feature in the 2021 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar. This week, Matt and our Food Power officer, Ben Pearson, caught up on Zoom, and you can listen to the conversation on our latest podcast here:

Poetry can make the world a better place

In the podcast, Matt tells how and why he became involved in social justice movements. 

He tells listeners: “I’m really interested in the way that poetry can be activism and poetry can make the world a better place. I think especially in this sector, there are some things that are so unjust you feel you need to do something about it.”

He says: “There’s a very thin line between making something, and making a change, so I think it does teach us something about our agency and the ways we can make a difference in the world, the more we engage in the arts.”

Matt talks about the number of people who became creative at the start of the pandemic, turning to the arts as a vital response to the crisis. He talks also of poetry as having the power to fossilise the feelings of a particular moment, and he and Ben talk of the empowering force of the Same Boat? anthology. 

Matt says: “The feedback I got was that it did mean so much to so many people, to engage in the process but also to be able to say ‘I am a published poet’ at the end of that and to know that for the rest of their lives, that that is part of who they are.”

 

  • All photos in this article are by Madeleine Penfold.

Other 2021 calendar stories:
Dignity, Agency and Power

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

“All it needs is people willing to listen”

1,000+ church leaders say: Don’t cut Universal Credit

SPARK newsletter autumn 2021

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic