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13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Our local group in Sheffield invite you to join them for this event as part of Challenge Poverty Week:

Saturday 16 October 2021

Gather: 9:00am, Church of Christ in Darnall, Station Road, S9 4JT for a 9:30am start

Visit: Darnall Well Being, High Hazels Park and Allotments, Attercliffe and Darnall Mission, Galeed House, Darnall Family Centre.

End: Around 3:00pm

Length: 3 miles

Hear about local issues and responses to them as we walk and pray together:

  • The community work of the Church of Christ in Darnall.
  • Darnall Well Being’s drive to eliminate health inequalities and the Allotment Project’s contribution to community cohesion.
  • Attercliffe and Darnall Mission’s bid to engage with young people and families to build a Christian community from scratch.
  • Assistance provided for young, single, vulnerable, homeless people.
  • Galeed House’s drive to help people from different backgrounds and cultures build trust and friendship and learn new skills.

Practicalities

  • The 52 and 52a buses connect Darnall with the city centre, Walkley, Broomhill, Attercliffe and Handworth and some go as far as Worral, Loxley, Wisewood and Woodhouse. Closest bus stops to the Church of Christ are on Staniforth Road.
  • Some trains from Sheffield Station to Lincoln also stop at Darnall.
  • If coming by car, allow extra time for parking. Church of Christ’s car park has insufficient space for pilgrims and the public car park on Station Road is currently closed. Parking on single yellow lines on Station Road is banned and the nearby Prince of Wales Road Car Park has a three-hour limit. You may park on stretches of Darnall Road where parking is permitted on Single Yellow Lines on Saturdays or on side roads.
  • Please bring a mask, as some of the venues may require one to be worn, also wear suitable shoes and bring a waterproof, drinking water and a packed lunch.
  • Please follow stewards’ advice, particularly at road crossings.
  • Walkers take part at their own risk and anyone under 18 must walk with a responsible adult.
  • The event is not suitable for dogs as we enter premises.

Come and be open to be challenged and changed by what you see and hear

For more information or to register to attend, contact Briony Broome on briony.broome@hotmail.co.uk or 07801 532 954.

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

At the beginning of October, the Government plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, reducing the already precarious incomes of families across the UK. Church Action on Poverty and Christians Against Poverty invite church leaders to sign our joint open letter to the Prime Minister, standing together to highlight our concerns about the impact the cut would have on people in our churches and communities.

Dear Prime Minister,

We stand together as church leaders from across the UK to urge you to think again about cutting Universal Credit payments by £20 a week from the start of October.

If the Government persists with this cut, it would be the single biggest overnight reduction in the basic rate of social security since the welfare state was established in the 1940s. Millions of low-income households will be swept further into poverty as a result.

As Christians, we are compelled by the gospel imperative to prioritise the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.

As church leaders, we must speak up, because of the impact this will have on our poorest neighbours and church members.

We urge the Government to choose to build a just and compassionate social security system that our whole society can have confidence in.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, poorer people in communities all over the country were suffering because the lifelines they needed from our social security system and vital neighbourhood services were not strong enough. Analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that the cut will particularly hit the north of England, the West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland. Rather than levelling up the UK, this will compound existing inequalities.

The loss of £1,040 a year will be devastating for many families at a time when energy bills and other household costs are increasing. Instead we can make sure our social security system brings stability, and opens up options and opportunities for people whose income is too low or insecure to make ends meet.

The cut has already been opposed by community groups up and down the country, charities, six former Conservative Work and Pensions Secretaries, and many MPs from all parties. This is an opportunity for the Government to send a message that it listens, and recognises the pressure faced by those on the breadline.

Universal Credit has been a vital lifeline throughout the pandemic. For the sake of millions of families, it must be retained at its current level, and we therefore reiterate the calls for the planned £20 a week cut to be withdrawn.

If you are a church leader, please add your name by following the link below. If you are not a church leader yourself, please ask the leader(s) in your church to sign.

This is a joint initiative between Church Action on Poverty and the debt advice charity Christians Against Poverty.

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Seeking food justice in York

It’s not enough to hand out food, if the broken systems are allowed to continue.

Two people who know that well are Mary Passeri and Sydnie Corley, co-chairs of York Food Justice Alliance and tenacious campaigners against the causes of poverty.

York artists Sydnie Corley and Mary Passeri, who run the York Food Justice Alliance at SPARK in Piccadilly, York. Picture by David Harrison.
Sydnie Corley and Mary Passeri, co-chairs of the York Food Justice Alliance. The duo are both artists, and are pictured in their old studio. Photo by David Harrison.

Mary and Sydnie feature on the September page of our 2021 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar, in recognition of the work they do across York and beyond.

Before covid, the alliance existed to coordinate all the different food aid projects around York and to speak up about what was causing hunger in the first place. A report was sent to the city council and Mary and Sydnie joined in others in producing this short film, focusing on hunger in the school holidays:

The duo also ran their own project, a zero-waste food stall, which helped many people get by day-to-day. But they both believe passionately in the need for a long-term focus. “We need to look for an exit strategy,” says Sydnie. “We need to look at how we can end the need for having food banks.”

Sydnie Corley, co-chair of York Food Justice Alliance. Photo by David Harrison.

Speaking up and sharing insights

To that end, they have spoken up in local and national media, sharing their insights on Radio York, BBC 5 Live, the Six O’Clock News on TV, and in The Yorkshire Post. 

They also helped to write the 2020 Reporting Poverty guide and addressed a room full of journalists, on the need for more first-hand and less stigmatising journalism.

Mary said then: “We’ve done media work because we want to challenge preconceptions. People have ideas about single parents or people on disability benefits or whatever, and we wanted to challenge the stigma and stereotypes.”

Mary Passeri, co-chair of York Food Justice Alliance. Photo by David Harrison.

Vision of a better society

This year, they have also been involved in the Covid Realities initiative, and the Food Experiences During Covid-19 research project, both of which aim to help ensure lasting change, as the country rebuilds after covid. 

People with experience of poverty know better than anyone what needs to change, and why. Those are the voices that must be heard most loudly.

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Sign the Anti-Poverty Charter!

We are pleased to share with you the Anti-Poverty Charter developed by our partners at the 'Life on the Breadline' research programme. Please read, share and sign!

The launch of the Anti-Poverty Charter at the end of project conference. Credit: Katie Chappell

What is the Anti-Poverty Charter?

A reflective action-oriented resource intended to help churches to tackle poverty and inequality in your neighbourhood and across the UK in a way that makes sense where you are.

How was the Charter made?

Developed through Life on the Breadline’s three years of research and conversations with national and regional Church leaders, local Christians and people experiencing life on a low-income.

Why have an Anti-Poverty Charter?

To help local churches and individual Christians to understand the unequal impact of austerity, the causes of poverty, support people in immediate need and challenge structural injustice.

This blog was originally posted on the Life on the Breadline website.

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The story of a Cornish food and community revolution

At Newquay Community Orchard, local people are growing and learning together

You can’t rush things when you’re growing your own food. It takes time and patience, but the results can be joyful.

That’s plain to see – whether you have a solitary herb plant on a windowsill or seven productive acres built by and for the community.

Newquay Community Orchard in Cornwall is fortunate enough to be in the latter position. Their site covers a patch of land the size of three and a half football pitches. It brings people together and, in doing so, helps to tackle many social issues that could otherwise be easily overlooked.

You can't eat the view

People not from Cornwall often have an idyllic holiday-style image of it, but alongside the great wealth and beauty there is significant poverty. Campaigners here often say “You can’t eat the view” and held a conference by that name in 2019.

That conference was suggested by Andrew Howell (on the left in the above photo), who works as a change coach at the community orchard and who runs End Hunger Cornwall with local support.

He had begun exploring poverty in Newquay in 2017, with Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum and says: “The more we dug, the more we found, and the more we realised the vast scale of the problems here. The scale was epic, and we started putting some plans together.”

The orchard, which is the August feature in the 2021 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar, has been at the heart of many responses.

Harvest time at Newquay Community Orchard

Ending social deprivation

Seven years ago it was empty fields, but more than 700 volunteers have helped to make it a local haven. Today, it is somewhere people come to grow, learn and relax together, and it has become a centre locally for culture, education, collaboration and ideas.

If you were to visit, you’d see a traditional heritage fruit orchard, a community growing space, a market garden, and a café. Behind the scenes, the site is powered by an immense amount of work and compassion.

Several different programmes run, to enable local people to develop their own skills, overcome isolation, build new opportunities and to create community, opportunities and change together.

The Growing Futures and Sustainable Lives educational, social and volunteering programmes have been created here for young people and adults to help the local community. All teaching at the orchard is centred on sustainability, ending social deprivation and promoting biodiversity.

Newquay Community Orchard

A space to breathe

The latest addition, which opened earlier this year, is the Kowel Gwenen community building, a co-working space and canteen, and home to the food hub. Performance terraces have also been added around the building, for poets, musicians, comedians, yoga, speakers and theatre groups.

Andrew’s colleague Jamie Poyner says: “Our breathing space here in the centre of Newquay is helping to end social deprivation, support people experiencing food poverty, increase biodiversity and create a more sustainable community of people.”

Rediscovering dignity and agency

Andrew says: “People can grow stuff and prepare stuff and work through stuff, in a non-pressured way. You might spend six weeks here, or it might be five years. It’s about getting the space and pace right. People can go to the Job Centre when they’re struggling, and be told ‘Go get a job or we will sanction you’.

“But if they were referred to the orchard, we could have a chat and see how they were doing and help them break a cycle and they can really boost their dignity and agency – or rediscover it. 

“You can’t push that sort of thing. People find their agency and power in their own way, and until they do they need just a bit of support. But when they do find it again, it’s fantastic. I have seen so many people really turn their lives around.”

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How can policy-makers and churches work together to tackle UK poverty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How have Christians responded to poverty during austerity?

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

Image credit: Beth Waters and Life on the Breadline

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

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

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

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

 

Our participants in the Life on the Breadline research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I find out more?

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

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

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Reset The Debt in Parliament

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

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


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

Covid debt is a problem that needs attention

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

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

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

Addressing the problem

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

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

Covid household debt

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

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

Responses to the Covid household debt crisis

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

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

The next step

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

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

You can watch edited highlights of the debate below.

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

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Watch the Food Power story

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

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

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Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

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How we can use poetry to accelerate social change

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

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

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

Poetry as a force for good

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

Poetry can make the world a better place

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • All photos in this article are by Madeleine Penfold.

Other 2021 calendar stories:
Dignity, Agency and Power

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

Listen up to level up: why we must rebuild together

Growing crops & community amid the pandemic

“All it needs is people willing to listen”

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

SPARK newsletter autumn 2021

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

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

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Growing crops & community amid the pandemic