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Church Action on Poverty has entered a major new partnership with Co-op which will help improve household finances, whilst bringing people together around food.

The news follows new research from Co-op which reveals a third (33%) of those impacted by the rising cost of living are turning to food charities more often.

The partnership will see the Your Local Pantry network supported by Church Action on Poverty triple within three years from 75 to 225 pantries across the UK, with the addition of 150 new pantries, creating almost 650,000 visits by July 2025.

These Pantries will support over 30,000 Your Local Pantry members who will save on average £15 per shop, with members often saving £1,000 or more a year or more on shopping bills. Overall, the new locations will help to save Your Local Pantry members up and down the UK an estimated £5 million when fully operational.

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community & Membership at Co-op, said:

“Everybody should have access to good food, this innovative new partnership with Your Local Pantry complements our existing initiatives to provide dignified long-term solutions to food insecurity and the cost of living.

“Pantries are all about dignity, choice and hope. Each one operates as a member-led neighbourhood hub, often serving as a springboard to other community initiatives, opportunities and ideas.

“Things are tough for many of us at the moment and we are proud that pantries will be there to support people and their local communities in dealing with the challenges that are thrown at them, it feels like a real step in the right direction to make the world that little bit fairer.”

James Henderson, Your Local Pantry Network Development Coordinator, added: 

“Pantries have enabled tens of thousands of people around the UK to strengthen their community and loosen the grip of high prices. Pantries reduce isolation, foster community and friendships, improve health and pre-empt poverty, and this exciting new partnership with Co-op will enable thousands more people to join and enjoy Pantries.”

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The UK doesn’t want demonising rhetoric – it wants to end poverty

On 21 September 2022, Church Action on Poverty and over 50 other faith, charity and organisational leaders signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for direct support for the poorest households in response to rising living costs.

As faith groups, charities, trade unions and front-line organisations we have seen the cost of living emergency escalating not only in the statistics but in the lives of people we meet day to day, in foodbanks, debt centres and in our places of worship. The least well off in our communities are facing the sharpest end of this crisis, and without substantial support will be dragged into destitution.

It is the urgent, moral responsibility of the Prime Minister to ensure that people on the lowest incomes have enough to live in the months ahead. Spiralling costs are affecting everyone, but for those who were already fighting to keep their heads above water this winter’s challenges will be a matter of life and death.

The Energy Price Guarantee announced on 8th September, whilst welcome, hasn’t gone far enough. Analysis published today by Prof Donald Hirsch indicates that the average family of four receiving Universal Credit will still need an additional £1,391 over the next six months to stay warm and fed. Low-income households need targeted financial support which takes into account family size and need, is distributed quickly and in amounts large enough to enable families to live decently this winter and beyond.

Increases in poverty and destitution because of this crisis are not inevitable, if government, business and civil society recognise that this is an emergency and act now. We believe that concerted action can turn the tide on poverty, see us through this winter and put us on the path to a poverty-free Britain. The government has the tools to deliver this at their disposal, and they must use them now.

Signed by:

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steed, Chair, Tzelem: The Rabbinic and Cantorial Call for Social and Economic Justice in the UK

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Chief Executive Officer, Liberal Judaism

Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church

Rabbi Rebecca Birk, Co-Chair, Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors

Anna Bland, Team Leader, Leeds Sanctuary

Anthony Boateng, Vice-President of the Conference, The Methodist Church in Britain

Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

Rabbi Janet Burden, Rabbi Emerita, Ealing Liberal Synagogue

Heidi Chow, Executive Director, Debt Justice

Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty

Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union

Sister Colette Cronin, Leader, Institute of Our Lady of Mercy

Colin Date, Acting Chair, Christian Concern for One World

Sister Lynda Dearlove rsm, CEO, women@thewell

Claire Donovan, Head of Research, Policy & Campaigns, End Furniture Poverty

Bishop Terry Drainey, Chair and Bishop, Catholic Social Action Network & R.C. Diocese of Middlesbrough

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Ben Gilchrist, Chief Executive, Caritas Shrewsbury

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Senior Rabbi, The Ark Synagogue

Rev James Green, Executive Director, Together Liverpool

Revd. Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Director, René Cassin

Revd Ruth Harvey, Leader, The Iona Community

Joseph Howes, CEO, Buttle UK

Imran Hussain, Director of Policy & Campaigns, Action for Children

Rabbi Richard Jacobi, Minister to the congregation, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue

Rabbi Neil Janes, Rabbi, South Bucks Jewish Community (constituent of Liberal Judaism)

The Most Reverend Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales, The Church in Wales

Rabbi Gabriel Kanter-Webber, Minister, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue

Mr. Rajnish Kashyap MCICM, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance

Paul Kissack, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Rabbi Monique Mayer, Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation

Gareth McNab, Head of External Affairs, Christians Against Poverty

Paul McNamee, Editor, The Big Issue

Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Senior Rabbi, The Ark Synagogue

Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

Patrick O’Dowd, Director, Caritas Diocese of Salford

Helen O’Shea, National President of St Vincent de Paul Society

Emma Revie, CEO, The Trussell Trust

Father Dominic Robinson SJ, Chair, Archdiocese of Westminster Justice and Peace

Revd Paul Rochester, General Secretary, Free Churches Group

Revd. Ian Rutherford, Chair, Greater Manchester Food Security Action Network and City Centre Minister, Methodist Central Hall Manchester.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, National Energy Action

Mr Paul Southgate, Chair of Trustees, The National Justice and Peace Network

Most Reverend Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, The Food Foundation

The Revd. Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Conference, The Methodist Church of Britain

The Reverend James Tout, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Wales, The Church in Wales

Fr Adrian Tuckwell, Caritas Hexham and Newcastle

Jo Wittams, Co-Executive Director, The Equality Trust


Enough to get through the winter: new analysis by Prof Donald Hirsch

New analysis (21 September 2022) by Prof Donald Hirsch updates his earlier report (7 August) to calculate the gap between rising living costs and the support provided by government to low-income households in England.

It calculates that a family of four receiving Universal Credit will still be £1391 behind what they need to stay warm and fed, despite government support.

 


Speak out for dignity for all

Challenge Poverty Week this year (17–23 October) is focused on how we can ensure dignity for all in the face of the cost of living crisis.

Take part and help make voices heard.

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

Merseyside Pantries reach big milestone

Transforming the Jericho Road

Partner focus: Meet Community One Stop in Edinburgh

Thank you Pat! 40 years of compassionate action

Halifax voices: on housing, hope and scandalous costs

The UK doesn’t want demonising rhetoric – it wants to end poverty

The growing cost of living crisis and poverty in Sheffield will be put under the spotlight when Church Action on Poverty's local group stages a Pilgrimage and conference in the city on Saturday 22 October.

Pilgrimage: meet at 9:30am at Sheffield Canal Basin (Victoria Quay).
Conference: 12:45-16:00, Pitsmoor Methodist Church, 131 Burngreave Road S3 9DG.

The event marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the national ecumenical Christian social justice charity committed to tackling poverty. It is open to anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of how poverty is affecting people in Sheffield and how various organisations are endeavouring to reduce its impact.

The Pilgrimage will cover a course of just over two miles to Burngreave, visiting several locations, including:

  • The Emmaus Charity Superstore, which provides a home, support and work for men and women who have suffered homelessness.
  • The Rock Christian Centre, one of the Sheffield bases of Christians Against Poverty, the charity which provides free, professional advice for people struggling with debt, and the Burngreave Food Bank.

Pilgrims will then have the option of joining local religious leaders, politicians and people on the frontline of dealing with poverty for a conference on The Cost of Living and Poverty in Sheffield, and a buffet lunch will be provided.

Speakers at the conference will include:

  • Liam Purcell of Church Action on Poverty.
  • Ruth Moore, Director of St Wilfrid’s Centre for the homeless, vulnerable and socially excluded.
  • Nick Waterfield, of the Parson Cross Initiative which aims to create community and provide support and sanctuary for people living in Parson Cross, Southey, Longley and Foxhill.
  • Sylvia Ward, chief executive of Citizen’s Advice Sheffield.

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

Sign up

The 2022 Annual General Meeting of our local group in North East England

Thursday 20 October
5.30pm
(Registration & refreshments from 5pm)

St Joseph’s Centre, High West Street, Gateshead NE8 1LX (opposite Gateshead Metro Interchange)

Voices of experience from:

  • Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission
  • North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commission

Keynote speaker: Anna Rowlands (author of Towards a Politics of Communion:
Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times)

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

Merseyside Pantries reach big milestone

Transforming the Jericho Road

Chris Hughes, a Catholic priest and member of Church Action on Poverty North East, explores how the parable of the Good Samaritan can suggest different ways for the church to respond to poverty.

Below is an example of how scripture can be looked at in different ways. These three perspectives have come from different reflections, mainly from Pope Francis and Anna Rowlands exploring the same piece of scripture, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

I want to offer what I call three lenses for exploring the famous passage. My hope is that this will offer a different way of looking at well known scriptures. Ultimately, what matters is not the ‘lens’ that is used but the insights that flow from it.

It will be interesting if others think that these lenses can be used on different scriptures and to know what insights can be gleaned. Of course you may use other ‘lenses’ to look at this or other passages.

Lens 1: the response of ‘political love’ to this story

In chapter 5 of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis makes a distinction between ‘Elicited Love’ – when we are moved by compassion to respond to the immediate needs in front of us –  and ‘Commanded Love’ – when we look at the systemic causes, the structural injustices, the possible response from institutions to change the root causes of the injustices caused by people.

Using the framework from community organising of having conversations with people (one-to-ones), imagine having conversations with all the characters in this story – the victim, the robbers, the Samaritan, the innkeeper, the indifferent clergy. What would be their concerns? What would be the structural causes of the issues experienced? Who would have the power to bring about change, and what would that change be?

Lens 2: identifying yourself in the story

In chapter 2 of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis, inspired by his Ignatian formation of using your imagination with scripture, invites us to identify with which character we can most relate to. Francis senses that at different times in our lives we can be different characters. Is that your experience? To whom do you relate most at this present time? Are you able to identify with other characters at other times of your life? Who else can we identify in the characters in this story?

Lens 3: drama of salvation

In her theological reflection at the end of her book Towards a  Politics of Communion: Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times, Anna Rowlands explores how theologians have interpreted the story. One way of seeing this story is playing out the drama of salvation: creation – fall – redemption in Christ – hope of fulfilled glory.

Through this lens, the victim, the violence and the indifference are all manifestations of our fallen world. The Samaritan is the Christ event who shows God does not pass by, but is moved with compassion to respond the needs of a broken humanity. This Christ figure rescues a dying humanity through compassion, showing that violence and indifference will not have the final say. This is our model of the Church’s ministry and mission. This is the source of our hope that we wait to be fulfilled. How does this impact on us and our prophetic and social action?


What insights and relevance arise when we use any of these lenses in the light  the cost of living crisis?

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

Merseyside Pantries reach big milestone

Transforming the Jericho Road

Partner focus: Meet Community One Stop in Edinburgh

Thank you Pat! 40 years of compassionate action

Halifax voices: on housing, hope and scandalous costs

The UK doesn’t want demonising rhetoric – it wants to end poverty

We're delighted to share this review from the Ashram Community's John Vincent of our new publication 'Dignity, Agency, Power'.

John Vincent hails…  

DIGNITY, AGENCY AND POWER  

Stories, prayers and reflections marking 40 years’ work of Church Action on Poverty.

This new book edited by Niall Cooper, Chris Howson and Liam Purcell is published by Wild Goose Publications at £14.99.

It is the standard reference book for progressive Christians for the 2020s and will rightly be put to use by all of us.

Poverty robs people of their dignity. So here, a wide range of different partners show how dignity, agency and power each belong together and each together, build a new vision of a new future for society in which poverty is overcome, and all have fullness of life.

The sources used are often Church Action on Poverty publications and bulletins, though each has its own author or contributor – a list of over 40 of them. The sections include:

  • Prayers, hymns and liturgies
  • Stories of communities and individuals in their struggles against hope and transformation through opposition and difficulty
  • Poems, drama and Bible studies
  • Theological reflections

Many well known names are participants, and lesser known and previously unknown writers.

Church Action on Poverty and the three editors are to be congratulated on an excellent production which will serve us all well.

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

Merseyside Pantries reach big milestone

Transforming the Jericho Road

Partner focus: Meet Community One Stop in Edinburgh

Thank you Pat! 40 years of compassionate action

Halifax voices: on housing, hope and scandalous costs

Monica Gregory

Each year, the Dignity, Agency, Power calendar tells stories of people who bring those values to life. This page features Monica Gregory.

Monica Gregory

Monica works with homeless people in Oxford in a range of roles, and has been involved in speaking up about social injustices for the past few years.

She was part of the national Food Power programme, took part in a Food Experiences panel in 2020 and 2021 to understand food insecurity in the context of covid, and is now part of the Speaking Truth To Power programme, supported by Church Action on Poverty. 

Monica also now runs a safe space for women in Oxford, and a lived experience forum for people who have been homeless.

Monica walking beside the river in Oxford

Monica: We're not here to tick boxes

Monica says the work in recent years has helped her to find the confidence to speak up about poverty in Oxford, which is often hidden, and about the broken systems that cause or increase poverty.

“Poverty is getting really bad now, with the cost of living going up, so my job is getting harder and harder because more and more people are becoming homeless as a lot of people cannot afford to pay the rent.

“The new lived experience forum is for people to have their say about services for people who are homeless, and for people who feel they have sometimes just been used so other people can tick boxes. Not everyone’s poverty is the same, not everyone’s trauma is the same, but people are too often put in the same box.

Things need to change - and I will speak up

“A lot of things need to change. What I would like to see change at the moment is Universal Credit. I don’t know how they can make people wait five weeks to get the first payment, when they have nothing to live on. I have six clients now waiting five weeks for Universal Credit to start, and they’re struggling to pay rent and to put food on the table, and they’ve had to start using food banks. They now feel embarrassed, so the system needs to change. People do not always realise how much poverty there is.

“I started working with Church Action on Poverty through our local food alliance, and now I know I will speak up about things. A lot of people are scared to speak up but I’m not scared to, and I fight for what is right.”

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

Merseyside Pantries reach big milestone

Transforming the Jericho Road

Partner focus: Meet Community One Stop in Edinburgh

Thank you Pat! 40 years of compassionate action

Halifax voices: on housing, hope and scandalous costs