Dozens join e-choir for rendition of a Disney classic

Community choirs in Sheffield have come together online beautifully.

All of us have been seeking ways to stay connected during the coronavirus outbreak, and to sustain community through these rocky waters.

Today, we’re delighted to share a wonderful piece of community singing, produced by some of our partners and friends in Sheffield.

Community choir coordinator Yo Tozer-Loft worked with an editor and four local choirs, to produce a beautiful community rendition of A Whole New World, from Disney’s Aladdin.

The choirs involved were the Dore & Totley Intergenerational Singing Teapot Choir; the St Mary’s Family Choir;  the Meersbrook URC Community Choir; and the Gleadless Valley Food Glorious Food Choir and Friends.

Yo had previously worked with us last year, when the last of those choirs helped lead our End Hunger UK work and performed at Sheffield Cathedral.

She said: “Early in lockdown, we were making things up as we went along and trying to master the technology. Making a video became a good focus for our Zoom singing and a way of making something collective happen in this time. Some people were really feeling lost and unproductive. 

“There were 35 singers and me. An accompanist made a backing track and we had five sessions learning the parts on Zoom, then shared it all via WhatsApp and our editor (John Swain) put it together.

“I am really delighted with it; I know the work the singers put in. For some it was a really big thing to see themselves featuring solo on camera. It really cheered people up and gave people a lift.

“We had planned to go into a Disney phase with the choirs anyway, and that was one of the songs. A Whole New World suddenly seemed very apt and it was quite serendipitous that it was completed just as new life tentatively set foot with the major unlocking last weekend.”

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

New songs for a strange land

In this guest blog, ACE - our partners running the first Your Local Pantry in Wales - reflect on how the pandemic and lockdown require us to do things differently.

‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’
Psalm 137:4

We have been exiled from our beloved Dusty Forge and find ourselves in a new and strange ‘land’!  The roar of laughter from the weekly Retreat group is absent, the punchline undelivered.  The Dusty garden is ripe with veg but the harvest is indefinitely delayed, a feast unshared.  The Repair Café has ceased, everyday items lying unfixed and unusable.  The artists’ paintings sit unfinished, visions cut short before their potential is fulfilled.  Birthdays have passed with no cakes and no candles burning for another year lived, and no singing.

ACE Staff making up food bags and parcels
ACE Staff making up food bags and parcels

We were singing a song of sorts. A polyphony of diverse voices, sometimes a little out of tune, but with a unique beauty all of its own. We were finding ways of including new people in this quirky choir, many of whom had never been told they can sing and assumed they had no voice. There were busy days in the Dusty Forge when the cacophony was glorious and it felt like we’d welcomed a little bit of heaven on earth. We hadn’t finished our ‘song’, and I still find myself humming the chorus in the quiet of my own home… It’s not the same. It’s too quiet now, and these kind of songs are meant to be sung together.

Meanwhile our community faces a whole new set of challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic which are nevertheless familiar because they feed parasitically on inequalities and injustices which we already know. Incomes are dropping. Work is even more insecure and pay is too low. Folk can’t afford food. Isolated people are struggling to meet their own basic needs. Individuals’ already fragile mental health is crumbling further. Families already struggling with multiple pressures now find themselves together 24/7 without the support of extended family and friends, juggling work and home-schooling.

The ACE ‘family’ has responded quickly. We have repurposed our ‘Your Local Pantry’ project, allowing us to deliver food to those who need it whilst keeping local ownership through membership alive. Our debt and benefit advice and support is offered via a phone service, and is being well used. We continue to offer 1-2-1 mental health support. We have moved quickly to prepare safe procedures that can support volunteering and have tapped into renewed enthusiasm for mutual aid by recruiting new volunteers. They are now busy with staff picking up and delivering prescriptions, preparing wellbeing packs for local carers, and offering ‘phone a friend’ services. Creative resources are being provided for home use with bored children. We’re even planning a community-wide back garden archaeology dig through our brilliant CAER Heritage Project. And like lots of other folk, we have stuck a rocket under our social media use!

ACE Coronavirus response
ACE Coronavirus response

If you spend a lot of time singing with others then you can learn to improvise together.  Our improvisational skills have enabled flexibility in responding to the crisis in multiple ways.  ACE is committed to a set of values and ways of working that provide a context for creativity.  We believe everyone has something to contribute and that everyone’s contribution should be valued equally.  We see and talk about our community not as a problem that needs solving by others, but as a network of people, places, buildings, knowledge, skills and creativity that too often go unnoticed, unacknowledged and untapped.  We seek to identify and to nurture these ‘assets’ through communal relationships, by listening to each other and those around us in our community, and by seeking collective ownership of, and responsibility for, the spaces and resources around us.  All this is energised by a large dose of experimentation.  We have hoped to create a culture that grows these skills and attitudes in us all so that when change happens, or crisis emerges, we are fit to the task of responding creatively, flexibly and with hope.  If the notion of ‘community resilience’ means anything to us then it looks something like this.  The coming months are as good a time as any to find out whether we have begun to be successful in achieving it.

Back when I studied Youth and Community Work we had a course tutor who, whenever we were struggling to make sense of an aspect of our practice, would tell us that we had to learn to ‘sit in the shit’.  It was very annoying at the time but the phrase has come back to me so many times since, and it seems particularly relevant now.  Its wisdom is in challenging us to fight the urge to leave the shit and walk away as quickly as possible.  The danger is to rush to old solutions in the context of new problems.  When all has changed, and the odour of a new strange world is overwhelming, there is necessary work in sitting in it long enough to understand it.  To get a feel for it.  To engage it with all our senses so we can start to improvise a way through.

‘French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil wrote about the claim of what is on our attention.  She writes, we do not have to love what happens to us, but we ought to pay attention to it, to come to know it and grasp what might be done for the good in response.  And we cannot really know what to do for the good if we do not grant events and people our deepest attention.  There is love to be had in creative human wrestling with what is, in that response, if not in the events themselves.’ – Anna Rowlands.

So some of our immediate tasks might be to wait, to listen, to watch and to reflect.  To remind ourselves that much of the value of community development is in the process itself, not in reaching some predetermined destination.  Our commitment to Asset Based Community Development, Coproduction and Community Organising, the interplay between the three, and the set of skills and techniques they provide, offer a useful toolbox for this work.  This can all go on alongside the absolutely vital work of meeting immediate need in our community.  But as we sit in this unique and very unpleasant Covid-19 shit, we may slowly start to spot new and different opportunities for song.

We will notice melodies being hummed by people who until now were strangers.  We will take up their tunes and bring them into harmony with some of our older ones (memory, and all that we’ve learned so far, will be important), we will discover new time signatures (maybe they’ll be slower and more reflective) and new key signatures (maybe they’ll be in a minor key for a good while yet, but that’s OK, a more celebratory day will come).  We may even find new and safe ways of combining our voices together in each other’s presence (without using Zoom!).  Eventually we will find ourselves singing a different but equally beautiful song in the new and strange land that we are entering.  The land will form the song, if we take notice of it well enough.  But the song will also help us make sense of, and live in, the new land.  Our vision, as ever, is not to be passive but to act together, and in acting together to find shared meaning, life and joy.


This blog first appeared on the website of Action in Caerau and Ely.

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Dozens join e-choir for rendition of a Disney classic

New songs for a strange land

Way Maker

Running a Good Society conversation

Something to wonder at and ponder on….

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

Running a Good Society conversation

Church Action on Poverty supporter Liz Delafield shares how Dialstone Lane Methodist Church in Stockport used our 'Good Society' resources to spark conversations and action for change.

On Saturday we had a meeting with two local MPs, using the computer app, Zoom. It was called ‘A Good Society? Within and After the Covid Crisis’. A collection of people, mainly from our local area, joined us in a question/answer dialogue. It was the latest in a series of events that had been taking place at Dialstone Lane Methodist Church, and our first virtual meet-up. These meetings explore what it means to be a good society. They have included hustings events for local and general elections, an event prior to the referendum and several roundtable discussions.

I would encourage other churches and faith groups to hold a gathering like this. It is a great way to contribute to building and engaging with the community. I do not hold up the way we did things as a model you need to follow. There will be many other equally valid, or better, ways of holding good society gatherings. We made plenty of mistakes along the way. Here are a few ideas that may be of some use:

Getting started

The journey began in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. We met around tables with a good supply of cake and coffee. We used the questions and ideas in the Good Society toolkit. This is still available  although it might be time for an update! This led onto our second event, a more formal hustings.

Communications

We use traditional ways, such as church notices, newsletters and posters, and invited groups that may be interested (church/faith groups, community groups, sixth form colleges). We also made an event on Facebook via our church page, and shared this on local community groups.

Keeping going

Many churches held similar Good Society gatherings but few have kept it going, so why did that happen? Several people who had been to the first two meetings had got a taste for it and were asking, “When’s the next one?” Things just developed from there. We had ups and downs along the way. But building a good society, or what Christians call the Kingdom of God, was never going to be achieved in one election.

Share a vision and keep hold of your ideals

At the majority of our gatherings, we have looked back at the 2020 vision of a good society produced after the initial good society conversations.  We also decided that we wanted to add “A flourishing NHS that meets peoples’ needs.” We ask our contributors to express their ideas about a good society. This gives us a focus.

Keeping control whilst allowing expression

Whenever people with different opinions get together, things can get a bit fraught. We decided early on to establish ground rules. A well planned and chaired meeting helps to set things on the right foot. By and large the political candidates and other invited guests have been well behaved. People often come with lots to say. We try to find ways people can contribute, even if they don’t get to say it in the meeting. Our larger events have a ‘marketplace’ to give out leaflets and hold informal conversations. Sometimes people are invited to share ideas in other ways such as a ‘have your say’ board.

Teamwork

An event like this takes a lot of planning. I have relied a lot on a friend in my church who is an excellent organiser. We are also very lucky to have some members who bake delicious cakes.

Using Zoom

Owing to the restrictions on meeting during the Covid 19 epidemic, our latest meeting was on Zoom. We decided to keep it to one hour, as zooming for longer than this can be difficult. We put people on ‘mute’ on arrival to keep it from being chaotic, and lined up the questions beforehand. It was less fluid than our real-life meetings, but a useful alternative under the circumstances. One advantage is that we don’t have to clear up afterwards!

What next?

We are planning another Zoom meeting, this time with local councillors. Perhaps, as we emerge from this pandemic, this would be a perfect time for all of us to reflect and renew our vision. It’s time to build back better. What is our vision for a good society in 2025?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Love and unity in a UK food desert

Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

Vacancy: Your Local Pantry Scottish Development Worker

Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

Gathering on the Margins – 23 June

Gathering on the Margins is going from once a week to once a month. We used our final weekly session to reflect on the past three months and what we have learnt so far.

We have had a Gathering on the Margins every week since the start of lockdown and it has been amazing meet so many people in different parts of the country and hear how different communities have been coping with the challenges of lockdown. We hope that, like us, you have found these gatherings a great opportunity to stay connected and share experiences. As lockdown begins to ease, we want to maintain these connections and continue having these gatherings in the longer-term. Gathering on the Margins will continue to happen, but on a monthly rather than a weekly basis. The gathering in Tuesday was the last of the weekly sessions and we wanted to use it as time to reflect on the past three months and what we have learnt together.

A constant theme throughout the gatherings has been creativity, and how people have responded to the crisis through art, music and poetry. This week we were joined by Yo, Charlotte and Gaye from a guitar group in Sheffield. The group grew out of the ‘Food Glorious Food’ choir, and they have learning to play the guitar together as a way of staying connected.

Matt, our poet in digital residence, has been to most of the gatherings, and shared his reflections on what he has learnt during the past three months. He said that hearing from people with different experiences has broadened his horizons and given him a better understanding of the scale of the problems that we are facing, but also the scale of the movement that exists to tackle them. For Matt, creativity has been a major way in which he has responded to that movement, and this is something he is keen to continue. He said that engaging with people’s stories in the gatherings and being able to chat to people afterwards has been very eye-opening.

Matt is currently compiling a series of poems written by himself and others in response to the pandemic. If you would like to submit a poem to be part of this project, you can do so here. There will also be an open-mic session on Tuesday 30th June at 3.30 pm if you have a creative response you want to share, or just want to listen to others. Sign-up here.

In groups we discussed what we have learnt over the last three months and what we want to carry forward into the future. Three main themes came through in the discussion.

Firstly, the value being connected and having the opportunity to speak to and hear from people we might not otherwise be in regular contact with, perhaps because they are based in a different part of the country. Ben pointed out that this has contributed to a real sense of community and people coming together, and understanding where there is crossover between different projects.

Secondly, some people have really appreciated the extra time that lockdown has given them, which has allowed them to pursue projects and attend online events. It has been great to have creative workshops run by Matt and others alongside these gatherings, and some people have been using this time as an opportunity to learn new skills like podcasting, making films and writing poetry.

And thirdly, the crisis has really highlighted the advantages of making good use of technology and doing things online. We are all looking forward to when we can meet with people in person again, but even when we can, we will still use Zoom as a way of connecting with people. For many people it is more convenient than gathering in person, removing obstacles like travel and social stresses. As we go into the future, we want to look for more ways to use digital technology as a force for good.

To finish off, we heard a poem from Matt that he read for us at the beginning of lockdown. The words are taken from signs Matt saw around his town at the start of lockdown.

The next gathering will be on 21st July. We hope to see you then.

Join us on Zoom by clicking the link below, or call 0131 460 1196 and using the meeting ID: 193 697 232

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

This week we talked about campaigning and movement building, including different approaches to campaigning and what issues Church Action on Poverty should campaign on.

We have been having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Join us on Zoom by clicking the link below, or call 0131 460 1196 and using the meeting ID: 193 697 232

Before we started out main discussion, our poet in digital residence, Matt Sowerby, shared the poem that he is working on inspired by the ‘You Can’t eat the view’ report from the End Hunger Cornwall conference last year. You can read the report here, and you can find more of Matt’s poetry here.

We started our discussion about campaigning by talking about the news Marcus Rashford has persuaded the free school meals vouchers scheme into the summer holidays. Holiday hunger is an issue that many people and organisations have been campaigning on for a long time, but it was a footballer that had the direct impact on government policy – so what can we learn from this? It was striking in the interviews that Rashford was speaking from his personal experience of having gone hungry as a child, and this was the powerful basis campaign. Rashford’s success was a clear sign that campaigns that might not have seemed winnable six months may actually be achievable.

Niall then talked about different types of campaign as well as various campaigns around poverty that other organisations are running at the moment. A lot of our campaigning in the past has been focussed on changing UK government policy, but there are other effective ways of campaigning too, such as influencing other institutions, raising public awareness and building a wider movement.

Andrew talked about the need for a societal change as well as change to government policy. Foodbanks and food poverty are becoming ‘normal’ in our society and we need people to realise that this isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal. To make societal change we need grassroots up movements, not top-down campaigns.

There was also discussion about how there are many issues that are would not typically be the focus of a specifically anti-poverty campaign, but are indirectly connected. An example that came up a few times was mental health issues, which can often arise as a result of poverty. An anti-poverty campaign could focus on building a better environment in which fewer mental health problems arise.

In breakout rooms we had the opportunity to discuss different issues that we could focus a campaign on, as well as different approaches to campaigning. Stef’s group talked about rethinking the benefits system and social security, to shift attitudes away from the unhelpful idea that ‘those who pay more in, should get more out’. They also discussed how food poverty arises mot just from an inadequate benefit system, but also from in-work poverty. This is another possible focus for a campaign.

Wendy’s group talked about ways of campaigning and the importance of a grassroots approach and having a local as well as national focus, because local campaigns can often achieve things that wouldn’t be possible on the national level.

At these gatherings we love to have creative input, and this week were joined by Yo Tozer-Loft from Sheffield, who has been learning to play the guitar during lockdown as part of a local guitar group, and she kindly demonstrated her new skills with a song. The guitar group grew off the back of the ‘Foodbank Choir’, who sang at the End Hunger UK event in Sheffield Cathedral last year. You can listen to them here.

We have had a gathering every week during lockdown, and the response and involvement has been amazing. We plan to continue gatherings like this on Zoom, but in order to sustain them in the long term, from July onwards they will be monthly rather than weekly. Next week (23rd June) will be the last of the weekly gatherings, and it will chance to reflect and discuss what we have talked about and learnt in the gatherings so far. We really value your input, so do join us on Tuesday.

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

This week we looked beyond the UK and talked about how we can stand in solidarity with people around the world, and what we can learn from approaches to tackling poverty in other countries.

We have these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Join us on Zoom by clicking the link below, or call 0131 460 1196 and using the meeting ID: 193 697 232

Last year Penny and Ben visited America to speak at an event hosted by Why Hunger? While they were there they visited projects tackling poverty and food insecurity at a local level. Penny reflected on how what she saw there compared to the UK.

In North Carolina they visited plots of land where communities were growing their own food and sales of the surplus at farmers’ markets would go back into the community. Penny has been trying to promote community gardening programmes like this in her own community in Byker, but has found it difficult to get people involved. As Ben points out, in the UK things like farmers’ markets are associated with the privileged and is currently not as normalised or accessible for most of the community. However, we heard from other people in the gathering about community growing projects in Cornwall and London, so this does seem to be something that is taking off in some parts of the UK too.

While in America, Penny and Ben also visited a large foodbank in New York, which seemed to provide more support than foodbanks Penny had been to in Newcastle, but there was also a sense the reliance on foodbanks had become very normalised.

Ben also reflected that the people he met in America were much more open to talking about how issues of gender, race, sexuality, etc. intersected with issues of poverty than we are here, and that they were much better at having those kinds of conversations. The events of the last few weeks are making the importance of these conversations increasingly clear.

Charlotte Killeya told us about when she visited Youngstown, Ohio when researching steel-making communities and was struck by how well communities told their own stories, and included discussions of the intersection of race, class, gender on sexuality. Charlotte recommends these books on the topic:

Striking Steel, Solidarity Remembered by Jack Metzgar

Steel Town USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown by Sherry Lee Linkon and Jack Russo

It was not only America that we talked about. Gillian Dare reminded us that much of the poverty in many countries around the world is the result of the wealthiest countries. She highlighted the importance of making trade deals that do not trap people in poverty. On top of this, lockdown across the world has affected important international development projects and severely damaged the economies of the poorest countries in the world. It is therefore more vital than ever that we stand in solidarity with them and seriously consider how what happens in the UK has impact across the world.

Niall shared a video of theologian Anthony Reddie reflecting what the Church needs to do to show solidarity with the most marginalised during the pandemic, especially around issues of race and class. He talked about how Christianity itself, and many Church movements were originally about solidarity with the poor, but as those traditions have become more ‘respectable’ they replaced commitment to the poor for the middle class, meaning that people on the margins become invisible. The pandemic has shown how these people have been hidden, and now we need to respond by being in solidarity and get alongside the people whose stories we really need to hear.

Towards the end of the gathering we discussed where we are after almost three months of lockdown and what we would like to discuss in future gatherings. People raised concerns about what is happening as short-term measures that were put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, such as accommodating homeless people in hotels, are removed. Other issues that were raised included: how young people’s lives are being put on hold, income levels, diversity and how we build back better. Do come along to future gatherings where we will discuss these issues.

Next week we will be talking about campaigning and what Church Action on Poverty should be focussing on. If you have ideas you would like to share, or just want to be part of the conversation, please do join us.

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Read the latest newsletter from our local group in Sheffield.

Poverty Update is a regular newsletter produced by Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield.

This latest issue includes reports from some of our national online gatherings, and details of how you can stay informed about the work of the local group.

Sheffield Poverty Update, September 2020

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

In this week’s gathering we discussed how the Coronavirus crisis has impacted the lives of children and young people.

We have these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Join us on Zoom by clicking the link below, or call 0131 460 1196 and using the meeting ID: 193 697 232

This week we heard from:

  • Wayne from Nightsafe, a charity which supports homeless young people in Blackburn and Darwen
  • Zoe from the Food Foundation who has been researching how the crisis has been affecting children’s access to food
  • Rys Farthing who advocates for young people’s rights, especially digital rights

We were also joined by Sarah Knowles from Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen, and actor/writer Ellis Howard.

Wayne told us about some of the difficulties that Nightsafe have faced over the last couple of months supporting homeless young people during the pandemic. Both the night-shelter and the daycentre, which are vital lifelines for many young people, were forced to shut during lockdown, but Nightsafe are still running three supported housing projects, accommodating sixteen young people.

Wayne told us that one of the major issues affecting young people is that stopping of education and the cancellation of courses and the structure that they provide is having a negative effect on mental health. But staff are finding new ways to engage with the young people living in the supported housing, such as inter-house events and competitions, and some of the residents have really embraced using this time to learn skills such as cooking.

The pandemic has caused lots of difficulties for Nightsafe, but as we are all learning to work in new ways, there are things they are hoping to carry forward into their future work. Wayne reflected that communication across the organisation to improve, and this is something they can take into the future. Find out more about Nightsafe here.

The Food Foundation has been doing research on the impact of the crisis on vulnerable groups and their food experiences. Zoe told us that at the beginning of the crisis there was a major supply issue of there not being food in shops, but now economic issues are more critical and intense and this is likely to continue in the recovery phase. There have also been major issues with the systems that are supposed to ensure that children are still able to access free school meals.

The Food Foundation are sharing the findings of this research with government departments and the media to try and shape the public narrative about this issue and allow people to understand people what has been happening. They have also have been recording podcasts with their young ambassadors, but this has been very difficult due to issues around digital exclusion. You can listen to the experiences they were able to record here.

Rys Farthing works on involving disadvantaged and marginalised young people in discussions about social issues. She told us that young people are now spending twice as much time online as they did before Covid, which has created a new frontier of inequality. Rys says that when thinking about youg people’s digital rights you can divide them into two categories: protection rights and participation rights.

  • Protection rights – Research has shown that factors like living in care or having mental health difficulties heightens the risks that young people face online, but very little research has been done into how living in poverty can impact these risks too. It is important not to assume that all young people are digital savvy and know how to protect themselves online. Lack of access to a high quality digital literacy curriculum means that young people facing inequality face much higher online risks.
  • Participation rights – This is something not many people were talking about before Covid, but we are now. Devices such as laptops and phones are now vital to education and participating in many aspects of life. A lack of reliable broadband connection is also a big problem for many young people, and having to pay for expensive data packages is a new form of the poverty premium. There is also need for education about how to use these digital resources.

However, Rys also sees the rise of the digital as being a space for incredible opportunities for young people. She hopes that increased digital civic engagement will be a way to tackle inequality and create new openings for social mobility. You can find out more about Rys and her work here.

Covid-19 is a global pandemic, affecting the lives of people in poverty across the world. Next week we will be shifting our focus beyond the UK and exploring the theme of global solidarity.

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park

You can’t eat the view

Cornwall is at its most beautiful right now. Wall to wall sunshine. Clear blue skies without endless plane trails. Uncrowded roads. To some that would be normally be the pinnacle of the dream and yet, right now, it really isn’t.

We are in a state of complete limbo. Despite the pockets of vast wealth that we have, areas of Cornwall remain in the top three poorest areas in Europe. What little economy we have is almost solely driven by the leisure industry, which traditionally starts up at Easter. Good weather means a bumper year – a plethora of hospitality-led zero-hours contracts, but at least it’s work? Yet this year we have nothing. Our sector is shut. Just this week, two of the biggest hotels in Newquay have closed their doors for good. There will be many more closures and much more unemployment to come.

Those who were already on benefits before this pandemic are probably coping better than most – being poor and going hungry was already their normal

It is true that those who were already on benefits before this pandemic are probably coping better than most – being poor and going hungry was already their normal. But right now they are being joined daily by a whole new section of people who have no idea how to cope.

People are being literally left to go hungry because they didn’t fit the furlough criteria, couldn’t get the self-employed help or simply couldn’t access the benefit system

Just last night on the regional news, the food bank at Camborne was featured. They painted an honest picture about the increase in demand. How people are being literally left to go hungry because they didn’t fit the furlough criteria, couldn’t get the self-employed help or simply couldn’t access the benefit system. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Cornwall very often doesn’t fit the national schemes. The food bank also highlighted the huge amount of people who thought they had a pretty good and safe income and are now stuck in a limbo land. No access to help, slow access to benefits (if at all) and facing the prospect of feeding their children from the food bank.

We are on the edge of a very, very big problem

We haven’t even got to the school summer holidays yet. We are on the edge of a very, very big problem.

I should also just touch on mental health. Whilst people with already diagnosed mental health conditions are largely coping OK (it was their normal anyway), huge numbers are being driven to turmoil by their sudden lack of employment, their total lack of opportunity and their near-complete lack of hope. The mental health services burst their banks long ago. GP surgeries can’t cope. The suicide rate is on an alarming rise. Yet it is the reliance on the charity sector that is fast becoming absolute. A whole other debate, but it ties in irrefutably and needs to be out there.

We don’t have any answers, but we do have amazing and resilient communities

So what are we doing? We have amazing schemes such as The Hive who are pioneering feeding people from literally nothing other than waste food. On just one afternoon last week they distributed 10,800 preprepared, packed and frozen meals to a charity in Newquay alone. This doesn’t even tie in with the food banks and their struggle to keep up supply.

Perhaps our biggest problem is that we don’t know what we are planning for, or when. The daily increase in demand is stressing our systems already and yet it keeps on growing. We don’t have any answers, but we do have amazing and resilient communities. However huge the problem, local mutual aid, kindness and support will get us through – but at what cost? Right now, no one can predict that.


Andrew Howell, End Hunger Cornwall
endhungercornwall@gmail.com

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Sheffield Poverty Update August 2020

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Vacancy: Challenge Poverty Week Intern

A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

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Way Maker

Running a Good Society conversation

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

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A walk in the park

Staying connected: 3 stories from Sheffield

Press play to listen:

Three women in north Sheffield share their lockdown insights, including on autism, friendly support, digital exclusion and staying connected

Carlie, left, and Charlotte, from Parson Cross in Sheffield

We all need to stay connected, now more than ever.

Church Action on Poverty and many of our partners have been finding new ways to ensure we sustain community, and even build new relationships that will outlast the coronavirus outbreak.

In the second episode of our new podcast, The Cast to End Poverty, we hear from three people in Sheffield, with particular insights into how the lockdown has impacted people who are most marginalised.

Charlotte works for the Parson Cross Initiative (PXI) in north Sheffield. She has already written two excellent blogs about the consequences of the outbreak in her neighbourhood, and she updates listeners on PXI’s work.

The project has always run groups around music, gardening, cooking, art and food, bringing people together through shared passions.

Charlotte says: “The social aspects of what we did have had to be put on hold, so it’s had a big impact. We’ve still been able to offer emergency food but people are missing the social contact, that’s the thing we’re really picking up on.

“We’ve set up something called keeping close with PXI because we wanted to say to people that we’re still there and that we still wanted to keep contact so people have been sharing their news and their craft projects they’ve been doing.”

On the podcast, Charlotte introduces two local residents: Carlie and Michelle.

The Parson Cross area of Sheffield

You're not on your own

Carlie lives alone with her two children, Isaac, aged six, and Lillie, aged 12, and she is also a co-founder of a support group, Autism Hope. Michelle works in local schools and with families that are on the margins.

Each of them had recorded conversations with Charlotte, which feature on the podcast.

Carlie tells listeners: “We’re coping; just about. There have been some extremely difficult times. Isaac, who has autism and severe learning difficulties struggles the most, so not being able to access school and having his routines taken away has had a huge impact on him. As the weeks have gone it is has got worse.”

She says Lillie has been amazing and weekly calls from school have been useful, but Isaac misses his grandma, his routine, and ordinary visits to the supermarket.

The greatest support has come from the autism support group, which has been keeping in touch online and through phone messages.

Carlie says: “You’re not on your own; other people do understand and are going through the same thing. One of my friends has two children with autism and has lost her own mum but has been sending little gifts to Lillie.”

She says:

“I think this has been a glimpse for everyone to see what it is like to feel isolated and to not be able to access things that other people can”.

She says she hopes that as society redesigns itself after this outbreak, families don’t have to get to breaking point before help is available.

Carlie at an Autism Hope event

Enduring support

Charlotte says: “There are obviously a lot of families who are really struggling with lockdown and they had been marginalised and felt isolated before and I think that’s what Carlie expresses really well.

“I also think what she expresses well is how they were supporting each other before, on facebook, calling one another – that support was happening before and has been going on throughout this and I took from our conversation what a strong group they are.”

You can hear Charlotte and Carlie’s full conversation on the latest episode of our podcast, Cast To End Poverty, available on all podcast platforms now. On the same episode, you can also hear Michelle talking about she and colleagues have responded to the crisis, including by providing laptops to help combat digital exclusion.

Let’s walk upon the water

A walk in the park

Look after each other

Are you a sun worshipper of follower?

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

Church Action on Poverty North East 2020 AGM, 25 September

Let’s walk upon the water

a park with a path and some trees

A walk in the park