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A posed group photo for the Neighbourhood Voices event at YMCA North Staffordshire in Stoke

Stoke on Trent hosts the third of our Let's End Poverty Neighbourhood Voices conversations.

We’re in Stoke-on-Trent, where eight local residents are discussing the city, its challenges, and their hopes.

As it happens, the conversation took place the day before the General Election date was announced, but even then it was still on people’s minds.

We’re here for the latest in the Neighbourhood Voices series: a chance for people in communities across the country to have their say on their community, its strengths and challenges, possible solutions, their hopes, and the issues they would like election candidates to prioritise.

A posed group photo for the Neighbourhood Voices event at YMCA North Staffordshire in Stoke

Stoke snapshots

People here give rapid snapshots of Stoke:

“We might be poor, but we are blinking well kind,” says Danny, chief executive of YMCA North Staffordshire. “In Covid, the papers said Stoke was one of the kindest places, with most community action. There’s still that real neighbourhood kindness here in Stoke.”

Issues raised include job opportunities (particularly for young people), wages, transport links, the city’s reputation and narrative, urban investment, and hope.

An exterior view of YMCA North Staffordshire in Stoke

Economic issues

Danny says much of the city’s historic identity came from the potteries, which once supported tens of thousands of jobs.

Danny: It’s a very working class city; there are very few middle class people. People want something to be proud of. When I was a kid, Stoke was as good as anywhere else as a city. Now, everywhere seems to have been improved, apart from us.

“I think towns and small cities in Britain have been completely ripped off. You can see huge development in the big cities, like Manchester, but Stoke has had very little. We are the proof that trickle-down economics is a load of rubbish.”

John: “Money goes out of Stoke, and so does talent. When kids do well, they leave. Most of the highly-educated and socially-mobile young people want to live in Manchester, London, Glasgow, Nottingham – they don’t stay here. And even a lot of the top earners and leaders who work in Stoke, live outside it.

“There’s really good friendship and loyalty in Stoke. But parochialism is a huge negative. There’s a culture of suppression of ambition. When kids grow up here they go away and then they are surrounded by people who expect to be successful and expect to have a good lifestyle, but a lot of people in Stoke don’t expect that. There is this poverty of aspiration we have to try to get to somehow.”

Nicky: “Stoke has a high rate of setting up businesses, but it lacks some of the professional sector to help that thrive, like accountants and legal professionals. 

Dan B, a youth ambassador at YMCA: “When we leave school, people are expected to do warehouse jobs rather than getting interested in progression. There are a lot of closed down business and shops. You get dropped into low-paid jobs.

“When I left school, I knew I wanted to be in the type of role I am now (a youth ambassador), but in 2016 there were not many opportunities like this in Stoke. Maybe in Birmingham, but not here. I got a painting and decorating job but I hated it, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Then there was an apprenticeship here – but there still wasn’t a lot of this type of role in Stoke.”

Danny: “There is a real lack of example that things could be better. There can be a ‘this’ll do’ mentality. People know what having nothing is like, but there’s still a fear of ending up with less than nothing – that’s the poverty that rich people do not understand, when they just talk about aspiration.” 

John: “Stoke people have generally got a good solid character, and that’s why a lot of people do well. I think there’s a lot of low-level entrepreneurialism, but maybe not enough confidence. But people who break through do well, partly due to that affable personality.”

A Google Earth view of Stoke-on-Trent

What do you cherish about Stoke?

Nicky: “People are very proud of our heritage and the arts. Our assets are another positive, like our green spaces – we are a very green city. Most neighbourhoods have access to green space.

“Also, if you put community events on, they are embraced massively. Stoke has one of the highest rates for community involvement and events. If there’s a big local event, everyone is out for it. People want to do stuff, and engage and get out.”

Nnaeto, chaplain at the YMCA: “This is my fifth year in Stoke. For people who have come in from elsewhere, our lens is different. We do not know all the history, but we see the opportunities. It’s central, you can go anywhere, life is fairly cheap, houses are less expensive here.”

What are the stories of Stoke?

Nnaeto: “We talk about the danger of a single story. If people look at just one angle, they miss a lot of different sides of things.”

Nicky: “If we are constantly telling young people they live in a poor city, what is going to happen? We have gone for World Craft City status, and the judges felt it was such a special place. But interestingly, the five people who talked about how wonderful Stoke is were all people who had moved here.”

What gives you hope? What would you like to be the story of Stoke?

Nicky: “That we are a city of crafts. We are a place for creatives and entrepreneurs to be birthed, and we will nurture and look after people. 

“What are the positives of the city, and how do we create hope for the future? For me, it’s the community and the craft and the location.”

Linda: “If we teach some of the history, it would help have aspirations again. We have the potential to be a tourist destination that people visit. We have the historical things that would attract people, and a canal system.

“We are stuck in the past sometimes – but stuck in the negative past, not the positive past. It’s like Stoke has a really bad advertising team!

”There are glimmers of hope, like in Hanley, there is a new Kurdish restaurant opening there, and across the road, the old DWP office is now a shop, and next door is a Caribbean shop. There are a lot of different cultures opening on the street. People have moved here and are making the most of it.

“If you took somewhere like Burslem High Street, and 20 creatives, and covered the rent and utilities at first, that would be thriving.”

Bishop Matthew Parker: “We all need to know our story, but we need not be defined by that past. Stoke has produced a lot. It wasn’t just creating for the industrial revolution; it was creating things of beauty.”

Dan: “A lot of young people here have talent but it never gets seen or heard. There’s a lot of hidden talent and people never get the opportunity to be heard, or seen or given a chance. When I started here, I was very shy, I wouldn’t talk to anyone, or I’d go bright red. 

“When my manager told me about the youth ambassador role, I thought they were having me on! But I knew it was an opportunity to develop my skills. Young people need more of that kind of opportunity to build themselves up, to know they can go for higher roles, maybe one day the CEO role. Companies in Stoke should be giving younger staff more opportunities to go for the higher roles.”

What is making a difference, or could make a difference?

Nicky: “The city was a real target before for the BNP and some politicians and press have tried to turn the community against each other, and sow division. But embracing diversity can be a real strength for the city.

“A lot of our young people here at the YMCA were talking about poverty setting them back, and how they felt trapped – whereas some of the people who have moved here from somewhere else felt they had the power to change their futures.

“What we are trying to do as the YMCA is unlock the kindness of Stoke people who left the city and done well for themselves. We send young people to Stoke expats, such as to a farm in Canada, to learn and see opportunities.”

“Another thing that helped was EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance). That was really good for the city. Young people were getting £30 a week so could go to college, and got a free bus pass. We saw a huge increase in young people able to invest in their future.”

Becky: “Yes – EMA really helped me. I had been homeless before I came here, but then I did childcare at college and now I’m involved in activities work.”

What would you like election candidates or the next Government to prioritise here?

A Google Streetview image of Hanley Bus Station in Stoke

Becky: “Transport links for me. I used to live in Burton on Trent, and it would cost me £9,80 on the train to go visit my parents. It’s only £2 on the bus, but the buses aren’t great. I go every few weeks to see my family, but it’s hard. There should be better bus passes for young people. So transport is the big thing for me, and general opportunities.”

John: “Connectivity in the area is shocking, partly due to geography. Most cities have a donut model, with a city centre in the middle. Stoke became a city, but it’s history is as 6 or 7 industrial towns, so it’s more of a sausage shape. It’s the only polycentric city in the UK. Since austerity, bus services have got worse. There are virtually no buses after 7pm on a Sunday.”

Dan B: “We’re talking about situations that are serious. When I talk to MPs, I feel that they’re listening but not understanding the real value of young people’s opinions and what their struggles are. And there are people in older generations who would love to work but can’t. We need to hear from more young people in these situations, who understand what it’s like for young people. They need to take us seriously.”

John: “I have seen so many regeneration schemes, Government plans all relying on private sector investment. We need regional focus and regional banks that operate for the region. There’s bad politics between Stoke and Newcastle-Under-Lyme, connecting to difficulties with councils. If you had a North Staffordshire regional focus, you would then have the economic area to do more.”

Nnaeto: “I want them to tell a more hopeful story of Stoke. Hope is the one thing, the most important thing people need. It’s easier for me, because I see it with a different lens. When I sit with young people, it’s difficult for them to see that there is hope but they do not need to be pulled down by negative narratives. Spread more hope.”

Could you host a Neighbourhood Voices conversation? Find the toolkit here:

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Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield: annual report 2023-24

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

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6 people holding cut-out numbers, reading 150,000

The Merseyside Your Local Pantry conference was a big success

Merseyside’s network of neighbourhood Pantries have now been visited 150,000 times, and can be springboards for renewed hope and strength across the region.

Dozens of Your Local Pantry coordinators, volunteers, members and supporters from across Merseyside gathered last week to celebrate their communities and share ideas, and this week they reached the 150,000 milestone.

6 people holding cut-out numbers, reading 150,000

The scale of the Merseyside Pantry reach

Merseyside has more Pantries than any other region in the UK, with 26 across Liverpool, South Sefton and St Helens. The 150,000 visits have been from 11,286 members. When members’ families are included, the Pantries have supported 27,745 people.

The regional conference was held at St Leonard’s Church in Bootle last week.

People took part in workshops, heard about national campaigns and initiatives they could join, shared practical tips for making Pantries work as well as possible, and watched this powerful film about the Pantry in Kensington Fields, about local people’s efforts to strengthen and safeguard the community.

"Hotbeds of social justice innovation"

Rich Jones, speaking at the Merseyside Your Local Pantry conference in Bootle

Rich Jones, chief executive of St Andrew’s Community Network, which supports many Pantries in the north of Liverpool, said at the conference:

“The beautiful thing about Pantries is that they have the potential to be hotbeds of social justice innovation. They are places where connection and relationship is cultivated. It’s a joy to see some of the additional initiatives that have been borne out of the Pantry experience, building communities rooted in dignity, choice, and hope.”

He added: “Poverty is mostly caused by structural and systemic issues, and at the moment it is exacerbated by rising living costs… The UK welfare system also makes it difficult for people struggling to get a decent income.”

Pulling together - and pulling apart the chains

Chris Shelley pulls apart a paper chain at the Your Local Pantry conference in Bootle, Merseyside

Chris Shelley, Your Local Pantry development worker for Merseyside, said Bootle had been poorly treated by decision-makers for many years, and was now an area with a lot of poverty, but he said:

“There are a lot of people who love this place and care about Bootle, and want to live here. If a community pulls together, it can do things, and that’s what Pantries are all about.” 

Chris had invited people arriving at the conference to write down a symptom or cause of poverty. These were formed into a paper chain, and at the end of the event Chris symbolically tore apart the chain, encouraging people to loosen poverty’s grip on people and communities.  

Thank you to everyone at Merseyside Pantries

James Henderson, national Your Local Pantry coordinator, said afterwards:

“It’s less than four and a half years since the first Pantry opened in Merseyside, and the growth and impact has been incredible. To reach nearly 30,000 people and 150,000 visits is remarkable, and I want to say a huge thank you to every member, volunteer and partner organisation who has been a part of this. 

“Merseyside’s Pantries are dynamic, welcoming, dignified places that offer choice and renew hope. 

“We know poverty in the UK is a national disgrace, and the cost of living scandal is pushing many more households into deep hardship. Whoever forms the next Government needs to make ending poverty a priority.

“At the same time, we praise and recognise the fantastic work of so many people working to reclaim dignity, choice and hope together in the meantime.”  

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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

Sheffield Civic Breakfast: leaders told about mounting pressures of poverty

Artists perform for change in Manchester

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield: annual report 2023-24

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

In this guest post, Bryn Lauder of the JustMoney Movement explores the connections between poverty and tax justice.

Last month, I had the privilege of visiting a food bank and clothes bar in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Many of us have felt that sense of pride and joy at seeing the local church actively and compassionately serving local communities, meeting the most marginalised with open doors and open hands.

But following the sense of pride in seeing the church be the hands and feet of Jesus, questions naturally arise:

  • Why, in the sixth largest economy in the world, do so many people need to depend on these services?
  • What is driving poverty, inequality and injustice in our society and how do we tackle it at the root?

Over 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr delivered his sermon ‘A Time to Break Silence’. In it he challenges us:

‘On the one hand we are called to play The Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that people will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard or superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars, needs restructuring.’

But, how do we transform the whole Jericho Road?

At the JustMoney Movement we believe it’s vital that the church has the big conversations about justice, asking ourselves how we can campaign and act for a world free from poverty, where our systems and structures treat all people equally and with dignity.

We have a vision of a new Jericho Road, where all may walk freely, with dignity. Our vision is of a world where money is used to shape a fairer, greener future for everyone.

That is why on 9 June, we are inviting churches across the UK to mark Tax Justice Sunday. Tax isn’t an easy topic and it’s not one we often hear about in church! Yet taxes are part of everyday life: they are a tool of government, a mechanism for distributing wealth, and a means of raising revenue towards a strong welfare state and well-functioning public services.

If as a church we want to move past charity and towards justice, surely we should be thinking and talking more about tax.

Tax could be a tool for addressing these issues, but as it stands the system often does the opposite. Taxes fall most heavily on those with lower incomes, so that the very wealthiest in society do not pay their fair share. At the JustMoney Movement, we see tax not as a burden, but a blessing: a way that we can show love for our neighbours and care for creation. That’s why we run the Church Action for Tax Justice campaign, calling for fairer taxes to get us closer to the kind of just, compassionate society we see in the biblical Jubilee and in Jesus’ kingdom values.

We understand that tax can be a difficult topic, but we also know that to truly be a justice-seeking church, we need to step out of our comfort zone.

What next?

  • Download our Tax Justice Sunday resource which includes a Bible study, reflections, prayers and actions here.
  • We believe taxes are a blessing, not a burden, and we are working hard to shift this narrative. Let us know what you’re thankful your taxes pay for here.
  • Join us on 11 June for our Fair Tax Week MoneyTalks event with former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Find out more here.

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

Merseyside Pantries reach big milestone

Transforming the Jericho Road

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

There have been some political statements that have demonised and divided people in the past week. It’s absolutely not what the UK public needs or wants.

There is, in fact, considerable consensus around poverty and economic justice in the UK. The country wants to tackle poverty, and inevitably a shared social security system must be a key part of that. 

We know that:

  • 88% of Brits want more to be done to tackle poverty. That’s a huge majority across the public.
  • 81% of people have said the income gap was too wide, and 80% said it would be problematic if it widened further.
  • 62% of people said the Government should act to reduce that gap.
  • Only 4% of people want to see less Government support for disabled people who are unable to work.

The UK public are compassionate, and believe in justice. We believe in supporting people who have least money and least power. 

Therefore, announcements mooting harsher systems that jeopardise our shared social security and stoke discrimination need to be challenged. 

The responses below are from members of the Speaking Truth To Power programme, after a series of Government suggestions, including asking non-medical staff to decide whether people were fit to work, instead of doctors, and changing the PIP system.

You’ll notice some recurring thoughts on the Government’s statements:

  • There’s a lack of regard for lived-experience input
  • There’s a lack of regard for the causes of ill health
  • There’s a skewed use of stats
  • Some of the ideas would be a waste of resources/time
  • The approach is inhumane
Mary Passeri stands smiling in front of some of her paintings

Mary

“Many people have pointed out that an election is coming so what he [the Prime Minister] has said is just hot air, or that it’s a red herring to divert attention from the Government stance or the situation in Palestine. 

“Even if there might be some truth to these statements, the sad fact is that this rhetoric has far reaching consequence in that it adds to the unpleasant narrative that disabled people are a burden, there is an attendant rise in hate crime in such an environment. 

“Also given that Labour seem to echo much of what the Conservatives spout, I hold little hope of this issue going away.

“For many disabled people, particularly those with invisible disabilities, not having their GP be able to write a sick note will make life impossible. They need the continuity, familiarity and understanding (prior knowledge) of them as a patient… especially those who may not be able to make their needs known. 

“Travel to an assessment centre could prove to be both very difficult and expensive. I know that I need help to both plan and follow a journey, I rely heavily on taxi use. Public transport is not wheelchair or disabled friendly. There are times I just wouldn’t have the funds to pay to get to an assessment centre. For many people (myself included) undertaking this additional journey when already ill would leave them in additional pain or distress.

“Just a thought, given that the stress and worry of living in poverty causes mental health issues – can we revisit austerity policies spouted by both the Government and opposition? Can we make sure that our children go to school properly fed with nutritious food that quite literally feeds their brains?” 

Sydnie

“It is possible that the increase in people having to take time off to recover, physically and mentally, corresponds with the increase of pressure on the NHS and education, workplace policies, lack of appreciation of skilled work, and underpaid work, which are fundamentally at a mentally damaging level.

“Jobcentre staff are not trained in neurodiversity; they are governed by stats and figures not sustainability, not working to gain the most out of an individual, not driven by long term success.”

Jayne Gosnall

Jayne

Responding to sick note changes

  • “When someone is depleted by illness or injury, they need easy access to the provider of sick note/sickness verification. Anything else can only be seen as placing undue obstacles in the individual’s path, which will harm the most depleted the most.
  • “If someone has an infectious disease, especially something eg Chickenpox, Rubella, Measles,they should be actively DIScouraged from using public transport, going to crowded spaces, due to their risks to others, and upper respiratory infections such as Influenza & COVID put certain groups at greater risk
  • “Sick notes can only be written effectively by a health professional who has access to the individual’s medical history and can therefore judge when issue X/Y/Z has a greater or lesser impact on the individual. It is preferable if that professional already has a clinical relationship with the patient. This is particularly relevant for claims such as PIP
  • “A GP may already have some understanding re: workplace stress eg due to bullying, something the individual may be unable to put on record elsewhere at that time. It can be the difference between a person dropping out of employment, or staying.
  • “We’ve seen how unfair “objective assessments” have been to those who are sick, especially those living with disabilities and/or long-term health conditions. People are marked as “able” to work, if they arrive with clean hair and clothes, or without an assistant on that day….even if their clothes were prepared for them and hair washed for them, and that rare effort to get to the centre knackers them for the whole of the next week. 

“I have always advised friends NEVER to attend alone, and say there’s no need to be dishonest but tell the assessors about your worst day not your best, because it’s your worst days when you need the support. It is society that says you scrub up for an appointment, and the same society which glorifies the rich & famous, but disables you by giving you low priority! A truly civilized society would have that the opposite way round.

Responding to proposed increased use of ‘talking therapies’ 

“My personal opinion is it’s another con, by central Government and increasingly metro Governmnent, of the third sector and the person experiencing mental health issues/distress. 

“People with funds will still buy their therapies in the private sector

“It is people like us, out here in a landscape of overstretched resources who will be kept further away from the therapy which suits us. Sure, we may gain some identification with others, which is fantastic if that’s what we need, but we will not experience a therapeutic clinical relationship, which is both enormously helpful for diagnosis, and will delve much deeper into background causes, trauma, and schemas developed in early childhood.”

Penny

“What are they going to do next? It’s another money-cutting exercise. You now can’t be ill, you can’t get to see a doctor, you are penalised at every turn with this Government. There are people who would love to work but employers won’t employ them because they would have to miss work for appointments and have time off – but they can’t say that, because they will be had for discrimination.”

Stef

“It is a shame that the NHS has been undermined so that we no longer have continuity of care under the same GP. I’ve had three appointments in recent weeks, each with a different GP. The ability of any one of these GPs to write me a sick note is limited compared to previous years when I’ve been able to see the same GP repeatedly.

“Of course, when it’s a short sick note for something easily resolved, not having continuity of care is less important. But as soon as it becomes more than a few days, it’s important to have that continuity of healthcare. And no-one wants to have to see two people whenever they’re ill; one for their health, and one for their work. Especially when it’s their health that means they can’t work.

“The current system ought to work. GPs can only sign-off for three months, and then a person goes for an assessment with a ‘health and work professional’ (WCA assessor), unless they’re rich enough to be getting sick pay from their job, in a job that accepts ongoing GP sicknotes. But somehow I don’t think it’s people in these better jobs that Sunak is worried about.

“He’s created a solution where there isn’t even a problem. It’s not even a sensible solution, given the inefficiency of forcing people to see two health professionals where one will do.”

Read more from Stef on this issue on her own blog, here.

Read more Speaking Truth To Power stories here:

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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

Sheffield Civic Breakfast: leaders told about mounting pressures of poverty

Artists perform for change in Manchester

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield: annual report 2023-24

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

Stories that challenge: Sarah and Rosie’s health

Dreams & Realities: welcome to an incredible exhibition

Building hopes and dreams in Bootle

This outrageous, counter-productive Budget marginalises people with least

A sermon for Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Stories that challenge: Emma’s road to church

Sheffield voices: We need higher incomes and more for young people

Cost of living scandal: 7 truly useful church responses

Stories that challenge: Alan & Ben

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Sheffield Church Action on Poverty’s first Civic Breakfast since Covid has heard that around 120,000 people in Sheffield are living in poverty, homelessness is the worst it has ever been, and city food banks could collapse if demand continues to increase.

The Civic Breakfast provides an opportunity for organisations working to address issues caused by poverty in the city to raise and expand understanding of their work and the issues involved. It is attended by politicians, civic leaders, officials and faith leaders from Sheffield.

Guests saw a video, produced by Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield, showing the work of the Grace Food Bank in the Lowedges area of the city, before hearing from the food bank’s chair Dr Jackie Butcher and Sheffield University Professor of Social Policy Alan Walker.

Professor Walker told Civic Breakfast guests, including Sheffield City Council leader Tom Hunt and Lord Mayor Colin Ross:

“During the cost-of-living crisis, more and more families fell into deep poverty. It’s not a matter of juggling and budgeting – they simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet.”

Prof Walker said three out of four families in poverty were going without and three in five did not have enough money to buy the food they needed. There were 120,000 people, including 28,000 children, living in absolute poverty in Sheffield in 2022-23, a 6,000 increase on 2021- 22.
What’s more, 38,000 were living in destitution and 37,000 experiencing severe food insecurity – a 15,000 increase on 2021-22.

Prof Walker said there had been “an unprecedented attack” on the incomes of the poorest. These included the month delay before Universal Credit begins being paid to claimants, the freezing of payment levels, and the abolition of payments for more than two children.

To make matters worse, as poverty increased the government had simply changed the definition of poverty to disguise the rise.

“In Sheffield, 50,000 people are experiencing negative budgets, where more money is going out than coming in – and that is even if they claim all the benefits they are entitled to. A further 35,000 people are ‘running on empty’.
Government policies have a very important role to play in combating poverty. Benefit rates are too low. It’s a trap, it’s a systemic trap – and it can be changed.”

The Grace Food Bank’s Dr Butcher said demand had doubled between 2001 and 2022 and again between 2022 and 2023, and was still rising. “If demand doubles again we won’t be able to cope,” she warned. 

She derided claims that people could survive by shopping around and cooking meals themselves, pointing out that some food bank clients had, at best, just a kettle.

“People come to us because the system is broken. They can’t afford ‘stuff’, they can’t afford to make their home safe for a disabled child, they can’t afford to visit their child in hospital, they can’t afford to heat their home to deal with their COPD. We need the wholesale re-organisation of the system in this country.”

Tim Renshaw, chief executive of the Cathedral Archer Project, which provides support for the homeless in Sheffield, told guests:

“Homelessness has never been so bad. There are 865 households in temporary accommodation and 45 rough sleepers a night.”

Mr Renshaw described plans to use Public Space Protection Orders to move homeless people out of some areas as “an absolute red herring – a piece of political magical thinking.”

Sheffield City Council Labour Leader Tom Hunt praised local initiatives for trying to lift people out of poverty. He stressed the cost-of-living crisis had been going on for far longer than the recent price rises
and was the result of Government policy.

Coun Hunt said: ”Choices have been made to design a system that is broken,” adding that putting cash in the pockets of the poor was one way to start dealing with poverty.


For further information about the Civic Breakfast contact Sheffield Church Action on Poverty chair, Dr Joe Forde, on joe.forde@tiscali.co.uk or 07854 109 670.

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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

Sheffield Civic Breakfast: leaders told about mounting pressures of poverty

Artists perform for change in Manchester

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield: annual report 2023-24

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

The inaugural event in our Artists for Change programme took place in Manchester on 28 April 2024.

The city’s iconic Band On The Wall venue hosted an afternoon of music and storytelling about UK poverty. Performers included Lindsay Munroe, Matt Hill, Hannah Ashcroft, Duvet, and Loose Articles. We also displayed the Dreams & Realities exhibition, featuring portraits of people on the frontline of poverty.

Messages of hope for our future often ring true through music, art, poetry and theatre – and hope is needed in our communities, our towns and cities and across the country.

Artists for Change reflects the ongoing feeling across the country that what the government and opposition propose to tackle poverty simply is not good enough. If we want to see poverty in the UK ended, we need to see real, decisive action and community led change, listening to those in communities to hear what we have to say.

Artists for Change is a community of artists aware of our opportunity onstage, online and in written word to be part of a movement that challenges the status quo and believes that poverty in the UK can end.

Do you want to put on an event?

Do you want to be part of an event?

Do you want to get involved, but you’re not sure how?

If you’ve got an idea, we want to hear it!

Let's End Poverty logo: text in black, with a pink triangle logo

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

The Halifax Unity building, with a Neighbourhood Voices logo on top

This Neighbourhood Voices story comes from West Yorkshire

We’re in Halifax. Queen’s Road to be precise – in a former betting shop that is now home to Halifax Unity, a group seeking to co-create a vibrant, diverse and resilient community, where everyone feels welcome and able to express themselves.

It’s a fitting setting for this Neighbourhood Voices conversation, hosted by Mums On A Mission.

  • What do people cherish about this community?
  • What should change?
  • What issues would our speakers most like election candidates to prioritise?
  • And what do they themselves stand up for?

Over the course of two hours, we heard about housing, transport, racism, the mental health crisis, the cost of living scandal, but also hope. Read on…

Mums On A Mission was set up by Ashleigh May, who was relocated to Halifax after being made homeless in East London, and by Vanessa Raimundo.

The group operates in London and now in Calderdale, providing support, particularly to Black families. They work also with other groups, including Spotlight Faith Group, which works with asylum seekers and refugees locally, and Light Up Black and African Heritage Calderdale.

A group of 6 people, four standing and two crouching in front. They're holding Let's End Poverty postcards.

Housing

Ashleigh: “Housing is a big issue. We have asylum seekers who get their settlement status but no housing, and there are also families who are living here and need better or bigger houses. I have been in private rented housing for six years, and within that time I had a rat infestation. Despite the social workers and council trying to find me somewhere, I had to bear it out and go back to the house, still not in good conditions, and a year later I had to contact environmental health.

“My landlord now says she can’t afford the mortgage, so has given me notice to leave. It’s affecting my children’s health.

“There’s one family we have been working with for years now. They have been moved from house to house, but there are no suitable properties, and they’ve been in Ryburn House (temporary accommodation) for 10 months. The council have said the only way they will get moved sooner is if they split the family in two. 

“Because of this situation with housing, many people’s mental health is deteriorating. How can you work well, knowing you have all these problems? People’s wellbeing is being burnt out. It’s a vicious cycle with many different factors.”

Viv: “Even though we don’t want it to, issues like lack of housing create competition and resentments within a community. It is a vicious cycle. Really bad accommodation leads to people getting sick, so people have to move and get private accommodation, but it’s so expensive they have to choose whether to heat or eat. If there was help earlier on, so much could be avoided.”

Mary: “After getting your status as an asylum seeker, there is no integrated system. You are in Home Office accommodation while your claim is addressed, and then you get seven days to leave.”

People sitting chatting around a coffee table
The Neighbourhood Voices conversation in Halifax

Community

Vanessa: We have an openness here and an honesty about things, and being able to talk about our situations, and it’s all built on lived experience here.”

Ashleigh: People want to meet and see people who look like them, representing them. People who feel the way I feel and see how I feel. People see that we make them feel like family.”

Viv: It’s amazing, so many people without many resources, trying to support each other, like LIght Up and Mums On A Mission. Mums On A Mission has that way that grassroots groups do, of saying: ‘we will find a way and see what can work’. There’s not enough housing here and there’s not enough support. At least if you’ve got a group like Mums On A Mission or Light Up, you can process what’s going on.”

An exterior view of Halifax Unity's building

Racism, and comparing London & Halifax

Ashleigh: When I moved here it reminded me of how Barking & Dagenham was in the 90s, you had areas with issues of discrimination, but I also saw potential. By 1999, the community in Barking & Dagenham was becoming more diverse, and within six months of moving here I was seeing more cultural diversity, but I still did not see services that reflected me, so it still doesn’t always feel like home.

“There is a lot of racism here. One girl was racially abused in Pudsey and police did not deal with it or get statements for ages, so we stood up and said it wasn’t right. 

“When I first came here, people assumed we were asylum seekers, but I had been born in England and lived here.” 

Vanessa: As a Black woman here, there’s a lot of harassment, and it’s laughed off – and the people doing it are shocked when you respond to them. I think it’s improving in some areas. The more time people spend together, the more they realise we are all people, but there is a lot of pre-assumed prejudice.” 

John: There has been a big rise in the Black population here in the last few years, and statutory services do not know how to work with families from different cultural backgrounds, so they need groups like Mums On A Mission and Spotlight to help them.” 

Ashleigh: “I think when people hear the way politicians talk about asylum and boats, it increases anxiety. People need to be treated like human being, but they are talked about as if they are something on the stock exchange. Also, a lot of people that come through the asylum system are skilled workers, but they are not allowed to work here.” 

Vanessa: The country is wasting those skills. Why not support people to provide services by and for people seeking asylum?”

A Let's End Poverty postcard, with a mug alongside

Cost of living scandal

John: “A lot of people don’t talk about poverty, but it’s real, due to high costs of living. A lot of people are in crisis. A lot of people are out of pocket on energy pre-payment meters, and don’t know they can change it. 

“There’s a lot of poverty among Black people, among BAME or global majority communities.”

Ashleigh: People are always juggling, moving money from one place to another to pay one bill, then another. It’s a cycle of not having enough, and that causes more stress. The energy crisis is hurting people and you can also see here how it affects local business and charities.

“It has affected a lot of people, and it increases isolation because community spaces close and people can’t afford to go out. There’s more online, but the risk is that the digital focus reduces human connection and that can lead to more discrimination, because we’re not actually coming together so much as human beings.”

Mary: “With the cost of living, and high energy bills, people are struggling and crying out – and then companies like British Gas are making huge amounts of money. How is that right?”

Viv: We have said as a country that companies’ right to make profit is somehow the priority?! You get some crisis funds, but what about addressing the thing that causes the crisis?”

Ashleigh: Organisations like us are helping people on the front line, but money keeps going to big groups, rather than the grassroots, so all we can do sometimes is refer on.” 

Vanessa: “It all means you’re always on edge, with mental health, because. That’s what comes of living in poverty.”

Viv: “People have been through so much, and then their mental health sits on top of all that.”

Esther: “It’s very difficult for me, with accessing food and eating. I don’t have facilities to cook much, and if I wanted to cook food I know, I would have to travel to Huddersfield, and that costs £15. I’ve been moved from Halifax to Brighouse, and getting from there to college or into Halifax costs a lot as well.” 

John: There are a lot of issues for men with mental health. It’s varied, but men do not say as much, for whatever reason. You have to be able to connect and resonate with them, and what I do is through sport.

“That brings people in – people have depression or family issues, and it’s not easy, and you end up talking to each other, like counselling. People then associate with their peers. We have people in temporary accommodation or going through asylum claims, and through sport and talking, people come together and are introduced to each other. “

A Halifax Unity sign in the Neighbourhood Voices venue

Transport

Ashleigh: “Transport is not fairly priced for kids. In London, kids travel free on buses, but not here. So if someone has, say, three children in secondary school and you have been relocated across town and now live far from school, it’s really expensive. Why can’t it be free for kids on buses to school?”

Vanessa: “Transportation services are much better in London.”

Let's End Poverty logo: text in black, with a pink triangle logo

Election priorities

John: I would focus on crime, poverty and mental health. I want a bigger society where more grassroots groups can be heard about what’s happening to them. There also needs to be more for young people.

“Poverty is the main thing we need to put forward. If people had enough money for food and energy and their rent or mortgage, they would have much less to worry about. If we tackle poverty, then things like poor mental health, violence and crime will all reduce as well.”

Mary: They need to look in to work and employment, and what they pay people. It’s not about telling people to ‘just work’, because the system doesn’t work well – you can be working and lose so much through deductions to the support you had, so you lose out. If we work on that, poverty will come down.” 

Ashleigh: “I would like candidates to hear about people’s wellbeing, and invest in social care, housing and making sure people in statutory services are trauma-based trained. The quality of life in this country is getting worse.” 

Viv: How can we be as well as we can be, and support each other, while systems are breaking? The focus is all on work and productivity rather than wellbeing. The DWP is going from supporting people to just policing.”

A hope logo

What gives you hope?

Esther: I get hope from the way people in here treat each other. When we lack something, we come together. When we come to Mums On A Mission, that gives me hope.” 

Vanessa: “Having a community support network gives me hope. That’s what was missing for  my mum 20 years ago, a support network of humans being humans to each other, and being there for one another. We helped someone once in town, who was beaten up and needed help. She texted us months later, saying she was the girl we had helped, and saying we had restored her hope in humanity. Having support really helps.”

John: “When people speak truth to power, to influence decisions and demand change, that gives me hope.” 

Vanessa: “Yes, our experiences are so valid, and need to be heard.” 

Ashleigh: “When we started speaking up and saying what we had experienced, people who had worked in the sector for years were surprised, but they acknowledged that they were inspired by our strength, and the fact that despite what we had gone through, we were still helping others. 

“Speaking up shifts things in people and reminds them why they started doing the work they do in the first place.”

  • Three of the people in this conversation preferred to preserve their anonymity. Esther, John and Mary are pseudonyms. 

Could you host a Neighbourhood Voices conversation in 2024? Find the toolkit here:

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A photo of two volunteers in Your Local Pantry aprons, beside a photo of two members shopping

The Your Local Pantry network has led to new partnerships and connections all over the UK. This blog tells of an exciting organisation doing brilliant work in Edinburgh.

Community One Stop Shop (COSS) is a project based in Broomhouse, an area of high deprivation in South West Edinburgh. 

It was established over 20 years ago as an advice shop, helping people in the area make sure they were claiming the correct benefits.

Since then, in response to the enormous needs of the community, it has steadily grown. The project now runs 13 services including a foodbank, a baby bank, a soup kitchen and an employability service, as well as acting as a distributer of fuel vouchers for the Fuel Bank Foundation.

One of these services is the Broomhouse Pantry which was launched in 2021. Co-ordinator, Lee Reynolds, tells us more about it.

A photo of two volunteers in Your Local Pantry aprons, beside a photo of two members shopping

What led the Community One Stop Shop to set up the Broomhouse Pantry?

The aim of COSS is to alleviate the effects of poverty for the 300 or so people who use it each week. While still reeling from the devastating impact of the pandemic, the community was hit hard by the cost of living crisis. Our clients are faced with impossible choices around budgeting their income to make sure their families are fed and their houses kept sufficiently warm.

As a result, we saw a massive spike in the usage of the foodbank. We had clients, many working fulltime, who desperately wanted to support themselves and their families, but the high prices of basic foods made this impossible for them.

Often they were used to managing their own finances, but could no longer make them stretch far enough. Others had become reliant on the foodbank, but they were wanting to move towards a greater degree of independence by paying for, and choosing, their own groceries.

In partnership with Your Local Pantry, we launched the Broomhouse Pantry in 2021 to support these clients. The initiative enables members to do a weekly grocery shop, choosing a number of items including fresh fruit and vegetables, and paying a heavily subsidised priced.

A young child with a small bike, and an adult in Broomhouse Pantry

What has been the impact for your regulars?

We currently have 110 members, and most tell us that their health has improved as a result of cooking more meals from scratch with food they’ve bought at the Pantry.

A member recently told me “After I had heart surgery I couldn’t get to the supermarket. The cost of shopping at the local store was too high, so being able to get affordable fresh food locally has been really beneficial. It speeded up my recovery and helped me get my independence back.”

Another positive outcome from running this service is the emotional support we are able to offer members.

Since the premises is small, we only have the capacity to serve one client at a time. While each client is with us, our volunteers will chat to them and usually hear a bit more about what’s going on in their lives. For many, this is one of the few opportunities they get to speak to another person, and a rare chance to get emotional support for things they might be going through.”

One woman, a pantry regular, told me: “I lost my husband just before the Covid pandemic, so using the Pantry has given me the chance to get out and speak to people”.

"Shopping with dignity is something most people take for granted, but for those who don’t have the choice of where they go to buy their groceries, making the surroundings as user-friendly as possible has a huge impact on well-being."
Broomhouse Pantry

How has Broomhouse Pantry responded to the needs of its members?

We have seen more and more people using the Pantry, not just as a shop to buy their groceries but as a place to chat to the team and to meet other people.

To build on this, we started hosting events for members. These have included family days out during the school summer holiday, an afternoon tea every Christmas, and regular pop-up community cafés.

What changes have you seen and how has this impacted the Pantry's work?

Last year, thanks to a generous donation by a local business, the pantry was fitted out with new shelving units, increasing the number of items which could be displayed on the shelves, as well as freeing up more floor space. For the first time, members using mobility scooters and those with children in prams and buggies could come right into the shop to see the selection of goods for themselves, rather than have to ask the server for the items they needed.

Shopping with dignity is something most people take for granted, but for those who don’t have the choice of where they go to buy their groceries, making the surroundings as user-friendly as possible has a huge impact on well-being.

How do you think Broomhouse Pantry will evolve in future?

With having such a cross-over of clients using multiple services, there is a constant demand for the Pantry’s services. We have had a waiting list for membership ever since we opened, and we are constantly reviewing the lists to make sure that we are operating at the optimum level.

We launched a steering group for the Pantry this year which was an opportunity for members to let us know what they like about the service, as well as offer suggestions for how things could be improved. It’s important to be in touch with our members so that what we are offering them is what they actually want.

And of course we are always looking at ways to build community amongst our members. We are hoping to host even more events, and to make sure the everyone feels able and welcome to come along and get to know more people in the area they live in.

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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

Sheffield Civic Breakfast: leaders told about mounting pressures of poverty

Artists perform for change in Manchester

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield: annual report 2023-24

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

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Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Pat Devlin, one of Church Action on Poverty's most experienced supporters and activists, is stepping down after almost 40 years.

Sometimes, we can see exactly where a powerful wave of change began – the single action that started the ripples that still roll.

Pat Devlin has long been involved in diverse and deeply inspiring social justice work: praying and protesting, walking and welcoming, rallying and reflecting in pursuit of a better world. She took street theatre to Tax & Benefits Centres, protested outside court, and was part of truly pioneering work to amplify the voices of people with experience of poverty.

And she can trace it all to a meeting in the early 1980s.

Pat has just stepped down as secretary of Church Action on Poverty North East (CAPNE), and spoke to us about her memories.

1980s Glasgow

“I was living in Glasgow at the time and I came down to one of Church Action on Poverty’s early national gatherings. I went back to Glasgow and got in touch with a few people, and we started our own group. 

“We arranged for the two Liverpool bishops (Bishop Sheppard and Bishop Worlock) to come to speak in Glasgow City Chambers. We were as surprised as anyone when 500 people crowded in to hear about the Liverpool Church experience in the midst of mass unemployment!

“But that became my experience, that social justice was much more central to the churches in Scotland than I ever saw in England. Political debate was a bigger part of everyday life – almost every other Saturday, we seemed to be on a demonstration.

“The day after the Bishops had spoken, Church Action on Poverty’s national coordinator John Battle came up for a day exploring the presence of the Church on Glasgow’s peripheral estates. 

“Speakers included John Miller, a Church of Scotland Minister who was bringing up his family in Castlemilk with his wife Mary who was involved in the famous Jeely Piece Club. Many years later John became the Church of Scotland Moderator. Sister Martha of the Notre Dame sisters also spoke about her small community of sisters who were living alongside people in Drumchapel, sharing people’s daily lives.”

Back to North East England

In the late 80s, Pat moved back to North East England. There had already been Church Action on Poverty groups at St Thomas’s Church in Newcastle and at Meadow Well in North Shields, but the combined CAPNE group was launched after the Dominican conference in Newcastle in 1988, entitled The Churches’ Option for the Poor.

The group focused on raising churches’ awareness, and creating networks between disadvantaged communities. An education pack was produced for churches, along with a video telling of the struggles and positive initiatives in Benwell in Newcastle, Meadow Well in North Tyneside and Willington, a former mining area in County Durham.

1990s: Protests, vigils and hearings

A newspaper cutting headed: "Church group's poll tax stand"

In 1990, members of CAPNE, including Pat, took an active role in protests against the court cases for non-payment of the Poll Tax. 

“CAPNE had adopted a non-payment stand, and we spent what seemed like a whole summer at Blaydon Magistrates Court, holding prayer vigils before the weekly non-payment hearings.”

After the 1992 General Election, Church Action on Poverty published its Hearing The Cry Of The Poor declaration, and Pat joined the national executive for six years. Around the same time, there had been riots in the west end of Newcastle and in Meadow Well, and also changes to housing benefit, which made it difficult for people on low incomes to keep their teenagers at home. 

“There was concern about a rise in youth homelessness, so CAPNE joined with Barnardos to set up the first North East Nightstop providing emergency accommodation in volunteer hosts’ homes. This was the only time CAPNE strayed into service provision.”

CAPNE organised three unemployment and poverty hearings, as part of the Local People National Voice campaign, culminating in the Gateshead Hearing in 1995. By this time, CAPNE was helping to pioneer work led by people with direct experience of poverty.

“I remember at a national gathering, people asking why there weren’t people with direct experience of poverty. One Anglican minister was very sceptical, and basically said: well, go away and bring them next time. I think David Peel in the North East led the way with meaningful engagement with people with lived experience of poverty.”

Pilgrimage against poverty

Pat Devlin (right) in conversation during the Pilgrimage Against Poverty

CAPNE took on two volunteers to help with the hearings, then employed Alan Thornton to help with preparations for the Pilgrimage Against Poverty in 1999, when people walked from Iona to Westminster. 

“What people probably don’t know is that in the North East we initially made our own pilgrimage to Lindisfarne to explore the meaning of pilgrimage. We heard what pilgrimage meant to the Celtic church and to those who journeyed from Ireland in tiny coracles, and we gained an understanding of the Haj from an Iranian family who journeyed with us.

“I didn’t walk the whole Pilgrimage – I walked from Berwick to York, which included the memorable walk from Newcastle to Jarrow, when hundreds of local people joined us. Later I rejoined the pilgrimage in Birmingham and walked to London. 

“When we reached London, after the rally in Trafalgar Square, there was a meeting with Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer and the North East were well represented as Brian from Meadow Well who had walked all the way from Iona, shared his experience as a young unemployed man and I was asked to present some of the policy changes we were looking for in particular a minimum income standard which came from the poverty hearings.

A group of walkers depart from Iona Abbey on the 1999 Pilgrimage Against Poverty.

The 2000s: Images For Change

For the Images For Change project in 2007/8, CAPNE worked with disadvantaged local communities, using photogaphs to explore the impact of regeneration projects and to push for local people to be listened to.

Five communities were allocated their own budget and used it in different ways, leading to diverse and vibrant local events, then a big event at Gateshead Civic Centre, when they
presented their shared key issues to local political leaders and regional representatives of
central Government.

“They went on to steal the show at an event for the then Communities Secretary Hazel Blears. However, when I meet people who participated, it’s not the big events or even the boat trip down the Tyne giving a different perspective on their communities and ending in a hooly on the boat, that they talk about.

“What they talk about is the visits to other communities in Manchester and Glasgow who had gone through similar experiences of ‘regeneration’.”

Making The Economy Work For Everyone

“This was the next big initiative to bring disadvantaged communities together to find a stronger voice in their shared experience. This time it was across the North of Tyne Authority, to give a platform to people whose experience is of exclusion, so they could explain the barriers accessing training and employment and a decent income that they faced. Much of the process leading to this event took place during COVID so it was an uphill struggle, but in the end it was a powerful event.

“I think what the Pilgrimage, Images for Change and Making the Economy work for Everyone show is just how hard it is to maintain the momentum and achieve demonstrable policy changes. It can be difficult – people retire, whole departments disappear, and we once had a meeting scuppered by a fire alarm that lasted the whole meeting.

“Abortive meetings can kill the enthusiasm of community participants and in the end our energy and capacity. We live in hope that attitudes have or are changing! I think Debt on The Doorstep was one clear success in terms of being able to demonstrate policy change. 

“But this work is central to the church’s role, to the gospel call to be alongside the poorest. Whether we see change immediately or not, we need to keep going.

“We can certainly see a lot of tangible changes that have happened at local level, even if it is harder to see them at national level, but national charities like Church Action on Poverty can only work at local level through existing organisations that are already embedded locally.”

Keeping people connected

Between the big initiatives, CAPNE engages churches through creative events for Church Action on Poverty Sunday; inviting topical speakers to AGMs; taking display boards to events; and promoting courses such as Scripture at the Margins. 

Pat also remembers fondly the Happier Christmas movement, led by the Franciscans and accompanied by a CD song that Tony Blair contributed to; taking part in participatory budgeting in Newcastle; the Journey to Justice event using the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle to highlight areas of injustice; and supporting the Gateshead and North of Tyne Poverty Truth Commissions.

A welcoming place

Amid all the work, CAPNE has also been a cherished community itself. 

“There was so much energy in the 1980s, that I think got lost a bit in the 90s and 00s – but it does seem to be coming back now,

“I think also, sometimes people who struggled to find like-minded people in their own congregations have found a spiritual home in CAPNE. It has been a place where they could share their faith and hope of building a society which reflects Gospel values reflecting the ‘kingdom’ we aspire to and find ways of supporting each other acting together in accordance with that.”

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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

Sheffield Civic Breakfast: leaders told about mounting pressures of poverty

Artists perform for change in Manchester

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield: annual report 2023-24

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

Stories that challenge: Sarah and Rosie’s health

Dreams & Realities: welcome to an incredible exhibition

Building hopes and dreams in Bootle

This outrageous, counter-productive Budget marginalises people with least

A sermon for Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Stories that challenge: Emma’s road to church

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded