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When people-power won the day against loan sharks

The 2022 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar include stories from today and from previous inspiring campaigns in the movement to end poverty. Here, we look at the Debt On Our Doorstep campaign.

It just isn’t right for institutions to exploit vulnerable people for profit, by lending money at astronomical rates of interest.

That is a moral view widely held today, and a teaching that runs through multiple faith traditions. So it was no surprise that Christians helped take the lead in a recent struggle against exploitative lenders.

Debt On Our Doorstep campaigners in Westminster
Campaigners outside Westminster, calling for changes to the law to tackle loan sharks

A widespread campaign

For many years, ‘doorstep lenders’ and ‘rent-to-own’ companies were a scourge on poor communities, charging interest rates of 160%APR or more to people who had nowhere else to turn. In recent decades, they were joined by other legal loan sharks such as Wonga and other payday lenders.

When Church Action on Poverty decided to challenge these companies, we knew we had to build a wide movement to achieve real change. The ‘Debt On Our Doorstep’ campaign brought together churches, credit unions, experts on debt and credit, and people who were customers of the high-cost lenders.

Gathering momentum

It was a long struggle. We held a public demonstration at Westminster with inflatable sharks, carried out research and produced policy recommendations.

Over time, awareness grew and campaigns snowballed. Debt On Our Doorstep worked alongside other campaigns led by MPs, and Church Action on Poverty was pleased to back the Archbishop of Canterbury when he launched his own initiative designed to ‘put Wonga out of business’.

Government regulators finally took action, introducing a cap on the cost of credit and other regulations which ultimately led to Wonga, the Providential and other lenders having to cease their high-lending practices. Together, we challenged these powerful oppressive organisations and stopped them sweeping people deeper into poverty.

A recipe for the future

To change the world, we must build movements alongside all people of good will. That continues to be Church Action on Poverty’s approach today, as we work with partners across the UK, always led by people who have experienced the issues.

What are the unjust structures we should be speaking out about now? And how can people use their voices and power to transform those unjust structures?

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

We're delighted to announce the launch of a special publication to mark the 40th anniversary of Church Action on Poverty.

Published by Wild Goose Publications, Dignity, Agency, Power contains all kinds of inspirational materials – drawing on our 40 years working to tackle UK poverty, but looking forward to how we can build an even stronger movement to reclaim dignity, agency and power.

  • Prayers for justice
  • Stories of real people’s experiences of poverty and speaking out for change
  • Poems
  • Bible studies
  • Theological reflection
  • Worship outlines
  • Drama

The video below is a performance of ‘Three (Women)’s Voices’, a piece by Miriam McHardy that’s featured in the anthology:

We’re marking the launch with a special online event at 7:30pm on Wednesday 8 June – click below to book a place.

The book is available to order from Wild Goose via the link below.

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

Do you share our vision of a UK in which everyone can live a full life, free from poverty? Do you want to work as part of a team bringing about meaningful change? We are looking for someone to facilitate a national event and our digital communications.

Our vision is that the UK can and must be transformed into a country where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty. Poverty robs people of dignity, freedom, and hope, of power over their own lives. We believe that our vision – an end to poverty in the UK – can become a reality. As a member of the Church Action on Poverty staff team, you will contribute towards achieving our core strategic goal of building a more powerful social movement rooted to build dignity, agency, and power together.

Since 2020, Church Action on Poverty has coordinated the annual Challenge Poverty Week in England and Wales. The Events and Digital Communications Facilitator will facilitate this, including supporting key partners in promoting on and offline engagement and events leading up to and during the Week.

The Events and Digital Communications Facilitator will work with all of Church Action on Poverty’s teams and programmes, supporting digital communications, and ensuring that they are coordinated with one another as part of the organisation’s overarching communications strategy.

This is a 35-hour-a-week role for working from our offices in Salford Quays or hybrid home working. The salary is £23,484 – £27,514 dependent on experience, plus a 10% employer’s pension contribution and generous holiday entitlements.

Closing date: Thursday 14 July 2022 at 10:00am

Interview date: Thursday 21 July 2022 at our offices in Salford

We actively welcome applications from people belonging to all faiths and none.

Please apply using our application form, available below. CVs will not be considered.

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

What song means the most to you?

That’s the question that a few people in Sheffield began asking during the pandemic…. and the answers have led to a wonderful new project.

Choristers singing at the Reasons To Sing concert in Sheffield

Reasons To Sing! - A community project

Nick Waterfield from Share Ministries in Sheffield worked with local people in the north of the city, and with Steel City Choristers, on the Reasons To Sing project. People were asked to identify songs that mattered most to them, or which evoked particularly strong memories. 

The responses were profound and wonderful. In May, the choristers put on a special concert featuring 12 songs, accompanied by 12 video stories. And now, they have launched a course for small group discussions as well.

Kate Caroe from Steel City Choristers takes up the story…

“The value of music and singing has perhaps never been more apparent than while live performance was so sorely missed during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“For many people, the isolation of being in lockdown highlighted the power of music and our desperate need for it – not only for our pleasure, but for our mental and spiritual health and wellbeing. Music and song have the ability to take us to another place; like other creative arts, they move us into a liminal space – a space between spaces. We want to encourage more people to sing, and this course gives people of all ages the opportunity to reflect on why singing is so valuable a part of being human.”

The Reasons To Sing concert in Sheffield

How the course came about

“The course has been written with Methodist pioneer minister, Nick Waterfield of Share Ministries. It explores the soul of our favourite songs – how singing shapes and reflects how we feel.

“The course can be used in a variety of settings: in schools, community groups, care homes, churches and for private reflection. The course consists of six short videos on the themes of comfort, gratitude, loss, love, unity and structure, with a set of discussion notes and suggested activities to aid contemplation.

“Each video consists of the choir singing two songs and the stories behind them, and acts as a stimulus for reflection on each of the themes. Six of the songs have been chosen by people from Parson Cross Initiative, and they have been paired with six pieces from Steel City Choristers’ traditional repertoire, thus making English choral music relevant to people’s everyday lived experiences.

“The concert was wonderful. Joshua Stephens, director of music at Steel City Choristers, said: “I think this has been the most amazing concert. One of the most amazing things about this project, which has been the best part of a year, is about making choral music more accessible, more visible. 

“Hopefully we have shown that choral music is everything from something written in 1592 to Hi Ho Silver Lining and beyond. There are absolutely no words to sum up the feel-good feeling that this project has brought.”

List of songs

There were six themes, with two songs for each:

  • Comfort: He’s Got The Whold World In His Hands / Psalm 137
  • Gratitude: What A Wonderful World / For The Beauty Of The Earth
  • Loss: The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended / In Paradisum from Faure’s Requiem
  • Love: Angels From The Realms of Glory / If Ye Love Me
  • Unity: Hi Ho Silver Lining / Jerusalem
  • Structure: Mr Blue Sky / Agnus Dei from Byrd’s Mass For Four Voices

Find out more

The course materials are available now on the Steel City Choristers website or by emailing  kate@steelcitychoristers.org.uk  

Filming in Sheffield for the Reasons To Sing project

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

“When do we riot?” The impact of the cost of living crisis

Invisible Divides

The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

Making the Economy work for Everyone

SPARK newsletter summer 2022

The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

Throughout 2022, we are telling the stories from the Dignity, Agency, Power calendar. May’s page features Your Local Pantry, so we caught up with James Henderson, who became network development coordinator for Your Local Pantry at the end of last year.

James Henderson with pantry volunteers
James Henderson, second right, with volunteers at Hitchin Pantry

Hi James… Can you start by telling us how the Pantry network is doing?

It’s going really well. We were delighted to  recently launch the first Pantry in Northern Ireland, which means we now have Pantries in all four nations of the UK, and we are still getting lots of interest.

We’ve also recently had our second Pantry open in Portsmouth, and other new ones opening in Leicester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sandwell, St Helen’s, Peterborough, Epsom and Sefton. We are on 68 pantries now, and it’s been really exciting to see the growth and development, and knowing what a difference Pantries are making to communities.

What do you think is driving that growth?

It feels like Pantries are a really current solution to the whole set of circumstances we are seeing just now. People are being squeezed from all sides, particularly with the cost of living. We all want to people and communities to have as much dignity as possible, and they are seeing that the Pantry model works.

Something we are developing, and really keen to further develop, is the idea of the Pantry as a wider community hub, providing what members want beyond just shopping. Can other people and services come in to give the Pantries even more value?

James, you've been in post for almost 6 months now. How are you finding it?

I am really loving it! It’s a really dynamic team to work with, and we work well together, with a nice mix of skills. I really enjoy getting out and visiting Pantries. It’s one thing reading or hearing about things, but to go and meet members and volunteers and coordinators is fantastic.

I love hearing stories from members about the impact Pantries are having on their lives, whether that’s helping them save for something important to them, or easing the difficult choices people are having to make, or meeting new people.

I love seeing the compassion of volunteers and coordinators, and seeing how much they really do care for the members. Pantries are really embedded in communities, and when you go in there is such a buzz, such a nice atmosphere. It’s lovely to see.

People reading this might want to get involved, or support Pantries. What can people do?

There are a few things people can do. If people want to join a Pantry, you can find your nearest one on the website. If there’s not one where you live, and you want to start one, there’s a Q&A on the website too, or you can email us for information. 

Pantries are all hosted by local organisations, such as community centres, charities, churches or councils, so you might want to find a local organisation that you think could be a host.

If you want to support the network, the Friends Of Your Local Pantry scheme is a great way to get involved. This enables you to support your nearest pantry and others in the network.

Also, just spreading the word is useful, and if you are a Christian then keep praying for the members, volunteers and coordinators. Half of the Pantries are linked to churches, and I know those 

Pantry teams really appreciate people’s prayers. Some members are in very difficult situations and volunteers are increasing hours, and some Pantries have waiting lists because there is so much demand, so all support is appreciated. 

Lastly, do follow us on social media. It’s a lovely way to see what different Pantries are doing, and to hear from volunteers and members and coordinators all over the country.

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

“When do we riot?” The impact of the cost of living crisis

Invisible Divides

The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

Hope story: a united stand against hunger

Everyone should have access to good food. Nobody should need to go to bed hungry.

Those simple values were the driving force behind End Hunger UK, an inspiring and hope-filled campaign that brought together thousands of people from 2016 to 2019.

Throughout this year, we are telling the stories featured in the 2022 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar, and April takes us to this photo, from one of the campaign’s most uplifting events.

End Hunger UK campaigners

How the campaign began

The End Hunger UK campaign was born from an almost universal anger and discomfort. All over the country, people and communities had seen the sudden and very steep rise in food poverty. Hunger is not new, but the scale and extent of it, and the way in which food aid had become an alarmingly routine part of society, felt unprecedented.

Charities, church groups, researchers and groups of people all over the UK joined forces, to see if they could pool their resources and power.

Over the lifetime of the campaign, thousands of people took part, writing to politicians, taking part in days of action, lobbying for policy change and simply standing up to say that hunger is unacceptable in a wealthy country like this.

Joining forces and singing together

It was very deliberately a coalition campaign. We know we can make more progress when, instead of talking over each other at key moments, we sing in chorus together.

That was very aptly illustrated at a campaign launch event at Sheffield Cathedral, pictured here, when Britain’s first food bank choir led the calls for change.

What we need in the long term

Lasting change requires Government leadership. Since this campaign, the pandemic and rising living costs have swept many more people into deep, deep difficulty. The need for Government action remains irrefutable.  

What we need is a national strategy to end hunger by 2030, and we need a clear roadmap involving all Government departments, to guide all Government policy in the coming years.

Reasons to remain hopeful

That won’t be easy, but the widespread support for End Hunger UK and the dynamic way it engaged people give reasons for hope. As a result of the campaign, Westminster began funding support for low-income families during school holidays for the first time, and also agreed to finally begin monitoring household food insecurity, an essential foundation stone for any serious attempts to solve it.

Attempts to end hunger in the UK continue. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to volunteer in or donate to neighbourhood projects, and the case for lasting Government action continues to grow.

Everyone should have access to good food. Nobody should need to go to bed hungry.

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

“When do we riot?” The impact of the cost of living crisis

Cost of living crisis: 6 useful church responses

How can churches respond to the cost of living crisis?

That’s what many church-goers are asking, as bills soar and incomes are squeezed.

This year, many people will go perilously cold, go hungry, and become isolated and destitute. 

In a compassionate, rich country, this should be unthinkable. So, what can we do? 

A silhouette shot of a church, with the setting sun visible through its steeple

Here are six ways that your church can respond positively and effectively. These suggestions will go a little way to easing the crisis for people in your community and/or shortening the crisis for everyone.

1: Speak up

The recent spring statement did not deliver anywhere near what households on low incomes require. We must all keep calling for change, and this will become particularly important ahead of the next budget in the autumn. 

You could write to your local MP or MPs, urging them to support an increase in welfare incomes that matches the rate of inflation. Anything less means people on the lowest incomes are facing a real-terms cut, and at the worst possible time. 

If you’re not able to coordinate actions like this, then please encourage your congregation members to sign up to Church Action on Poverty’s email list, so they can join in national actions.

2: Listen

Ensure you are truly hearing from people in poverty in your community and have ways to ensure that conversations take place. Mistakes are often made (and resources misdirected) when people or organisations assume what is needed, rather than listening to people with lived experience of complex issues. 

Forming real relationships and having meaningful conversations are essential. 

What is your church doing beyond the Sunday services to meet and hear from local people? Many churches this year are organising pilgrimage on the margins events, which can be one way to start this process. Perhaps you could too…

3: Give

We must always press for lasting change to tackle the root causes of poverty, to bring about long-lasting change. We continue to do that, but right now, we are also asking for donations to help alleviate the immediate emergency facing people up and down the country.

Your church may have its own project that people can donate to, to ensure people in greatest need are helped. If not, donations to our emergency appeal will help partner projects around the country to improve food access for people on low incomes. 

4: Repair dignity, hope and choice

Donations to the above appeal will help Your Local Pantry members. Perhaps you could go a step further, and either support your nearest Pantry on an ongoing basis, or set one up yourself.

Pantries soften the blow of high living costs, and create the conditions where communities can grow and thrive together. There are now more than 65 around the UK, making a huge tangible difference to people’s lives. 

5: Know who else can help

People in acute financial crisis will often need specialist support and advice. Your church team cannot possibly know everything, so ensure instead that you know where people can go in your community for expertise. Speak to local organisations like citizens’ advice, your local CVS, your local authority and other charities. Gather contact details and information leaflets, so you can be a useful pointer to people who turn to you. 

6: Build on what has worked

Communities rallied in an incredibly positive and proactive way when the pandemic began. Many groups of neighbours set up WhatsApp groups, and perhaps your church found new ways to keep in touch with local people. 

Don’t let that go.

Those support systems and networks can be invaluable again, as people and communities find the ground beneath their feet giving way. Be where you are needed.  

 

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

“When do we riot?” The impact of the cost of living crisis

Invisible Divides

The compassion in these neighbourhood pantries is fantastic!

Making the Economy work for Everyone

SPARK newsletter summer 2022

Cost of living crisis: 6 useful church responses

What is the Right To Food?

Hope story: a united stand against hunger

How we ensure struggles are not ignored

What does the cost of living crisis mean for people in poverty?

Holding the church to account

On the road: recalling the time we took a bus all round Britain

SPARK newsletter winter 2021–22

6 ways we can build dignity, agency & power amid the cost of living crisis

How we ensure struggles are not ignored

Telling your own story for a good purpose is like having a superpower, says Ellis.

Ellis Howard

Every month, our Dignity, Agency, Power series tells of inspiring people and groups who are tackling poverty in the UK.

Some stories are of people taking action right now, and others look at great pieces of work in the recent past. All of them, we hope, might bring renewed hope, ideas and confidence for all of us in the movement to end UK poverty.

The stories run alongside the photos in the 2022 Dignity, Agency, Power photo calendar.  

Our March story feature Ellis Howard, who spoke to us last year about his work to ensure people’s struggles are not only heard, but also drawn on to help improve the future.

If you missed it then, here’s what Ellis had to say:

My name is Ellis Howard. I  am a Scouse actor-writer.  With Church Action on Poverty, I ran a series of workshops all about how we can use our lived  experiences and transform them to activism; how we can own our stories of struggle, of  food shortages, to empower us and to help shape future policy and future lives.  

Transforming lived experience into activism

My name is Ellis Howard. I  am a Scouse actor-writer.  With Church Action on Poverty, I ran a series of workshops all about how we can use our lived  experiences and transform them to activism; how we can own our stories of struggle, of  food shortages, to empower us and to help shape future policy and future lives.  

Celebrating unheard stories

For so long these stories, these experiences, these lives have been completely undocumented.  They haven’t been celebrated in a glorious nuanced way. 

Harness your superpower

Get in touch with all of those things that make you unique, and absolutely harness them, because that’s where your superpower lies.

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

On the road: recalling the time we took a bus all round Britain

The 2022 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar include stories from today and from previous inspiring campaigns in the movement to end poverty. Here, we look at the Tax Justice Tour.

The Tax Justice Bus in 2012

In 2012, Church Action on Poverty and Christian Aid took a double-decker Tax Justice Bus around the UK on a 53-day tour,
visiting 109 towns and cities.

Campaigners spoke to politicians, campaign groups, church leaders and the media, inspiring people to speak up and mobilising support.

This campaign and others paid off in summer 2021, when the G7 leaders agreed that multinational companies must pay at least 15% tax on profits in countries where they operate – a big step towards tax justice.

The tour generated nearly 500 pieces of media coverage, and dozens of MPs boarded the bus when it reached their constituency, to learn more about the issues.

At the end of the tour, a petition with 10,000 signatures was presented to Prime Minister David Cameron. 

In 2021, the campaign and similar ones paid off, when finance ministers from G7 countries reached a deal to ensure multinational companies pay at least 15% tax on profits in the countries where they operate.

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

‘To restore one’s soul’

When people-power won the day against loan sharks

Dignity, Agency, Power – new anthology launched today

How music is once more bringing people together in Sheffield

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian