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Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Watch a video from our recent online session exploring this new book.

Young, Woke and Christian is a new book from SCM Press, edited by Victoria Turner. 

As part of the ‘Church at the Edge’ online discussion sessions we’re organising in partnership with the United Reformed Church, Victoria and some of the book’s contributors introduced the themes and ideas of the book and led a discussion.

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

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

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

A guest blog on the cost of living crisis by Dr Naomi Maynard of Feeding Liverpool and Natalie Davies.

April Fool’s Day, our kids were late back from their school trip. A blessing really, giving me time to stop and listen. Natalie’s been a good friend for over three years, since we were pregnant at the same time with our littlest children and I was new to Everton. Where we live doesn’t have the best statistics, we have the highest Index of Multiple Deprivation score for the city, are one of England’s top ten most economically deprived food deserts, and have significantly more than the national average of children, by reception age, who are obese. New research has also identified our constituency as the least able to withstand the rising cost of living in the UK.  But for us it is home, an area with amazing community, a beautiful view of the city and teachers who champion our kids.

The cost of living with the Poverty Premium

“Over six months of trying and still nothing,” Natalie exclaims. She has been trying to switch from her pre-payment energy meter to a direct debit energy deal, but none of the major suppliers will have her. “It’s exhausting, they just say ‘we have no-one in your area to do this’ or ‘phone again in a few months’, I want a smart meter and to be on a direct debit. I know this will save me money but what can I do?

“I couldn’t even take up Martin Lewis’ advice to top up our meter as much as we could before the price changes came in at the start of April. I didn’t have anything spare that week to put on, and even if I did my supplier said they’d recoup their losses next time I topped up! What a joke!”

In charity and academic speak, what Natalie is experiencing is called the Poverty Premium – when lower-income households are paying more for essential goods or services because the best deals aren’t available to them. This means the impact of price rises aren’t experienced evenly across all pay brackets, unfairly putting significant, avoidable additional pressure on lower-income households trying to keep their heads above water.

Natalie works part-time for the NHS as a cleaner, bringing home just £9.20 a hour. This, coupled with her Universal Credit entitlement, goes quickly once she has paid for rent, council tax, energy, transport to work, food and clothes for her two children. She also is working towards a degree part-time. For Natalie the end of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift in October signalled the end of ‘Funky Fruit Fridays’ where she’d take the kids to the supermarket after school to pick fresh fruits to try over the weekend. She’s worried about the energy prices going up and what it’ll mean she has to cut back on.  Her household budget, like those of so many others, simply doesn’t have many more places it can be cut.

Real solutions to the soaring cost of living

As we chat, my grand phrases about how we can ‘redesign this man-made economy’  and need to ‘ensure those in power know the reality on the ground’ suddenly feel hollow: change just isn’t coming fast enough. Yes, the Chancellor announced additional funds for our council to distribute through the Household Support Fund, and we have the excellent Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme and many charities around who will support households during this crisis. But will this be enough? Is this really the solution? Our lower-income households need better wages, a stronger safety net and fair access to the very best deals.

The school bus pulled in, and we were onto the next thing: playtime, dinner, bed. As we parted Natalie threw out the challenge “So, when do we riot?”  Frustration, hopelessness, injustice, outrage spilling out in five short words, spoken with smile.

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

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

Invisible Divides

In this guest blog, Natalie Williams of Jubilee+ shares some of the ideas from her new book.

When I was a little kid, we lived on the 16th floor in a block of council flats in a notoriously deprived part of town. If anyone had told me back then that I’d one day be leading a national charity and writing and speaking about poverty and class in the UK, I wouldn’t have laughed, but I wouldn’t have got it. It’s not that I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, I just wouldn’t have understood why I’d want to do that.

I grew up in a working-class family in Hastings, a deprived town on the southeast coast, which a national newspaper once called “Hell-on-Sea”. (Don’t believe everything you read – it’s actually very nice.) At various points in my childhood, we were in relative poverty. I didn’t really understand poverty or class as an issue until I became a Christian when I was 15.

One of the first things that changed was my aspirations. I didn’t realise until I came to faith in Jesus that I’d had a very narrow view of how my life would pan out. Suddenly I was learning about the Bible, and worship, and church, but also that I was made in the image of God and my life is actually about things a lot bigger than me.

Some of the first barriers God broke down in my life were to do with possibilities. I found myself with new hopes and dreams. I also found that I didn’t really fit in with most of the people around me: I became a Christian in a majority middle-class church and quickly realised there were huge cultural differences between us to do with our values and habits connected with things like money, hospitality, communication. Even the things that motivate us seemed to be at odds.

Class is still an issue in churches across the UK today. Across denominations and groups, most of our churches are very middle-class. This matters because most people in the nation still identify themselves as working-class – 60 per cent, a statistic that hasn’t changed for 40 years. That’s why Paul Brown and I wrote Invisible Divides: Class, culture, and barriers to belonging in the Church (published by SPCK last month). We hope that by shining a spotlight on some of the differences between us, we can find greater unity across classes in the church.

In my work for Jubilee+, a Christian charity that equips churches in the UK to change the lives of those in poverty in their communities, we’ve observed over the last decade or so how energetically churches have risen to the increasing needs around us. Food banks, debt centres, night shelters, befriending activities – projects have multiplied and many people have been helped at their time of crisis.

But often, when people have come through projects into church, they find that most people there aren’t like them. As friendly and welcoming as the church members may be, if you notice a lot of differences between you and the majority, it’s hard to feel you belong. Paul and I hope that in some small way, our new book might help to bridge some of the ‘invisible divides’, so that instead of trying to become like the people around us, we can all help each other to become more and more like Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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.  

 

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

Vacancy: Speaking Truth to Power Development Coordinator

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

Hope story 1: tenacity and change in Salford

12 stories of hope for 2022 – and immediate actions you can take

How Thrive took control of the agenda in 2021

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

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

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

Martin can see the rise in the cost of living, every time he looks at his energy meter. So what does the cost of living crisis mean for people in poverty?

Martin’s bills have already increased once, and he now faces being charged about £1.50 a day more than a year ago. £1.50 a day. That’s £10.50 a week, £45 a month, £547 a year.

£ 0
more every year for energy

“I notice it all the time, and it will go up again in April. It’s very difficult at the moment,” he says. “Very, very difficult.”

Martin lives in Halifax in West Yorkshire, sometimes on his own and sometimes with his son in the house.

He used to be a forklift truck driver, but had to stop working when he suffered nerve damage, and he has long-lasting pain and anxiety.

He has deep first-hand knowledge of living in poverty in the UK, and has been involved in many grassroots campaigns and projects, working to challenge and change unjust systems that trap people in poverty. He knows what helps or hinders people in his situation. Cutting benefits, needless to say, would be immensely unhelpful and severely damaging.

“Take the Universal Credit uplift,” he says. “That extra £20 a week we were getting was really helping – but then that got taken away last autumn and it put me right back down again. It’s very hard now. That £20 a week was about £80 a month and meant a lot. It meant I was not stressing so much and it meant I might have a little available if I needed to buy a new pair of shoes or something. Taking that away means I cannot do things, so then my mental health is worse, and I’m stuck indoors.

“I can’t turn my heating off because of my health. I need it on or it affects my mobility. If I’m warm, I can do a bit, but not if I’m cold. My anxiety and depression now is getting worse and worse again. I’m stressing all the time, and forever trying to change bill payment dates and things like that.”

That £20 a week was about £80 a month and meant a lot. It meant I was not stressing so much and it meant I might have a little available if I needed to buy a new pair of shoes or something. Taking that away means I cannot do things, so then my mental health is worse, and I’m stuck indoors.

———— Martin

The Government cut Universal Credit last October, pulling away one of the lifelines it had put in place to help people stay afloat during the pandemic.

Four months on, rising bills and inflation are making the storm even worse. The solution should be clear. Government ought to be ensuring benefits rise in line with the costs of living. Instead, people on benefits face a second cut in the space of a few months. Inflation is set to reach 7% by April, but benefits are set to rise by only 3.1%.  That means anyone who was just balancing their budget last year, will now face a significant shortfall. Anyone already short faces being swept into poverty.

“It’s not just the £80 a month they’ve taken away in Universal Credit,” says Martin. “Energy prices are going up, food is going up. If they cut benefits again, it’s more like £200 a month.”

£ 0
a month cut from benefits

It’s a similar situation all over the country.

In Portsmouth, North End Baptist Church runs a Your Local Pantry store. The community initiative brings people together around food, forging new relationships and helping people save on their grocery shopping. That final point is a key attraction right now.

Jo Green, one of the Pantry managers, says: “We are getting busier and busier, unsurprisingly. We’ve just had our busiest ever week, with 110 people, and we are getting a lot of new people signing up. We have close to 600 members now.

“Most people are coming weekly, and they are saying they’re petrified to put the heating on, and are trying to do things like more batch cooking to not use as much gas. Some people come here because they are mindful of food waste, and some because they have less money than before to spend on food. Some people are saying their diet has had to change. If people are working part time, they might have enough for bills but not for food. A couple of people here are retired and say their pension doesn’t cover the food they need.

“What’s the answer? There needs to be an overhaul of benefits. I know families with people on Universal Credit and changing circumstances takes too long to process, and people don’t have enough.”

There needs to be an overhaul of benefits. I know families with people on Universal Credit and changing circumstances takes too long to process, and people don’t have enough.

———— Jo Green, North End Pantry

Ness Brown, manager at the InterAct Pantry in Leeds (pictured on the right above), tells a similar story.

“People are so worried about fuel bills,” she says. “Many have already had one increase, and April’s will be the second. The other issue round here is that one of the budget shops in the community is closing, and the shopping area is becoming a bit gentrified. It’s harder for people to access affordable food. We do what we can, but what I worry about is getting to the point when we might have to turn people away because we’re at capacity.”

What needs to change?

There are many things Government could do to loosen the grip of poverty in the UK, but fundamentally, it must ensure that all households have enough to live on.

In the medium to long term, that means a sensible redesign of our whole social welfare system, based on evidence from people who understand the system first-hand. In the short term, it means ensuring benefits rise in parallel with rising living costs. Anything else is a cut in real terms, just months after last October’s Universal Credit cut. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has calculated that 400,000 people could be swept into poverty if the Government does not alter its plans, and 9 million low-income households will be £500 a year worse off.

0
people swept into poverty

Peter Matejic, JRF’s deputy director of evidence and impact, says: “At a time when the case for support could not be clearer, the Government is choosing to further erode the value of benefits that are already wholly inadequate.”

The 7% figure is well-founded. It is the forecast in the Bank of England’s February 2022 Monetary Policy Report.

Social security is already woefully inadequate in the UK, stripped to the bone by years of cuts and freezes. Another cut would devastate households like Martin’s. It would be catastrophic and should be unthinkable. As Martin says:

“Benefits just need to be higher than they are now. People are in terrible situations.”

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

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

Vacancy: Speaking Truth to Power Development Coordinator

How we ensure struggles are not ignored

Holding the church to account

As Church Action on Poverty Sunday apoproaches, a member of the United Reformed Church's Northern Synod shares his reflections on Church Action on Poverty's vision and strategy.

Later this month, Sunday 27 February to be precise, is Church Action on Poverty Sunday. On that afternoon the new national strategy for Church Action on Poverty will be launched at an event in Waddington St URC in Durham.

Those present at that event are going to be asked to discuss two questions:

  • What should churches do to eradicate poverty?
  • What will they actually do?

Until recently I knew very little about Church Action on Poverty and so I looked at their website to find out more about their aims, and this is an extract:

“Church Action on Poverty aims to build a movement that can loosen the grip of poverty in the UK. Our projects are hugely diverse and cover a wide area but have one thing in common: they all tackle the root causes of poverty. Tackling unjust Government policies… Amplifying the voices of people who have been marginalised… Challenging harmful business practices… Holding the church to account…”

As I read it, I thought, “tackling unjust Government policies….”, good; “Amplifying the voices of the marginalised…”, about time too; “Challenging harmful business practices…”, quite right; and then I came to the last phrase “Holding the church to account…” That caught my eye. What’s going on here, wait a minute. “Holding the church to account.”

Every Sunday we are invited as individuals to confess our sins and receive forgiveness. We hold ourselves accountable to God. But what about being held to account for what we do as a church, local, synod and national?

How do you feel at the thought of the Church being held accountable here on earth by another group, let alone society as a whole?

We know that the Church is seen by many as irrelevant and disengaged on key issues. If the many are right, that surely is one form of accountability.

Who speaks for the Church? Well, in a very real sense we all do, as individuals and members. Perhaps we need the prod of being held accountable to ensure that we can attempt to answer questions like those being posed by Church Action on Poverty on 27 February.

In this century the Church cannot claim to be unaware of the sufferings in the world, always too numerous to list and often overwhelming. And as a result, do we take refuge in looking after ourselves and our tomorrows when for lots of people the grim reality of today is all there is?

The pandemic has brought untold distress emotionally and financially to many. It has become painfully obvious that some of the support services we thought were resilient have been proven to be threadbare and unavailable to those who need them, when they need them most. There are no quick fixes but what is our response now as Christians, and in this instance as the Church to the significant issues faced by many in our society?

If we take our Christian calling seriously, it is surely not unreasonable to be asked what we are doing about all of this, i.e. to be held accountable.

Take food banks, a relatively recent phenomenon in the UK. Remember the outcry when they were started – and yet why do we now appear to accept them as a necessary part of our social fabric? They do not have to exist, but it will take structural economic reform to sort that one. In the meantime, we quite rightly host food banks, provide a friendly face and a welcome, and in reality, dealing well…… but with only half of the story!

I then got thinking about climate change and the helpful processes available under the A Rocha Eco Church (www.arocha.org.uk) These processes are in effect an audit of a local church’s green credentials.

What if processes like these were available to audit all levels of the church’s activities on tackling poverty, social justice, helping the marginalised and so on? Would they help us to focus our wider mission…?

And if we were seen to be tackling these broader issues, unjust Government policies, amplifying the voices of the marginalised, challenging harmful business practises, etc… would the Church be recognised as more relevant and engaged; and recognised or not, would we then welcome the Church being held accountable…. Just wondering!!


Sandy Ogilvie is a member of the United Reformed Church’s Northern Synod. This article first appeared in the Synod’s e-newsletter and is reproduced by permission.

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

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

Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, asks:  How do we build dignity, agency and power together as a society? 

Introduction

Church Action on Poverty’s 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, agency, of power over their own lives. We believe our vision – an end to poverty in the UK – can become a reality.

Our goal over the next 5-10 years is to contribute to building a social movement based on organising with people and communities struggling against poverty, to create the social and political space to reclaim dignity, agency and power.

I have been director of Church Action on Poverty for nearly 25 years, and will reflect here on our experiences of trying to develop a variety of practical organising, empowerment and advocacy programmes, and look ahead to new paths.

Our context: the denial of dignity, agency and power

The task of organising is indeed difficult in the current context. There is little prospect of significant action to tackle poverty at UK level, with a Government with an 80-seat majority in Parliament, which came to office with a focus on delivering Brexit but which is now faced with having to deal with the hugely damaging long term social and economic impacts of the pandemic. 

More widely, the Covid-19 pandemic has both brought into much sharper focus pre-existing inequalities in society, and led to dramatic increases in poverty, debt and levels of unemployment (especially for people under 25), which are significantly worse than that following not just the 2007 global economic crash, but the deep recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. 

For all the talk of ‘building back better’, this leaves many families and communities with the prospect of reduced life chances (and indeed, life expectancy) for years to come.

Beyond this, there are strong and deep seated public attitudes in the UK which stigmatise and blame individuals for their own poverty. 

Professor Ruth Lister describes this in terms of the ‘othering’ of people living in poverty.  Over many decades, these attitudes have not only been embedded in the welfare system, but have also been internalised by many people living in poverty themselves. 

In the words of Wayne Green, who spoke at the first National Poverty Hearing we held back in 1996: 

“What is poverty?  Poverty is a battle of invisibility, a lack of resources, exclusion, powerlessness… being blamed for society’s problems”  

To be clear also, the Churches have not been immune from these attitudes, from treating poverty as a problem to be addressed through individual behaviour change, or in more theological language ‘saving’ people from their self-inflicted poverty. 

This is the context in which poverty – and even many attempts to tackle it – rob people of their dignity, agency or power over their lives.

In spite of this, Church Action on Poverty affirms the belief in the transformational possibilities of people coming together to reclaim their dignity, agency and power.

Dignity

Pope_Francis

For Christians, the centrality of human dignity is based on the foundational theological principle that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Maria Power states that Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, “offers a new vision of society in which human dignity and the human rights of all are respected…He has always wanted to make it clear that his papacy is one of action – placing the needs of the poor, marginalised and disenfranchised at the centre of his ministry.”

According to the United Nations, poverty is not only deprivation of economic or material resources but a violation of human dignity too.

The concept of human dignity is based on a particular pattern of perception: of perceiving humans as beings rather than things. The thing about dignity, and the reason it is a transformational concept, is that it knows no social, economic, gender or ethnic barriers.

Dignity is not something that can be given, but it is very definitely something that can be taken away.  This is not just a question for the way the state interacts with its citizens, for employers, the media or society at large, but it is also a question we have to address to ourselves.

Agency

To be truly human means being invested not only with dignity, but also with agency.  Agency is about people’s ability to act individually or collectively to further their own interests.  Agency is tricky.

People on the right seek to blame people for their own poverty, without understanding the wider forces which come into play on peoples lives to restrict their agency to act.  People on the left can focus so much on structural forces that create poverty and inequality they risk denying people any agency to change anything.

In Church Action on Poverty’s experience, people who struggle against poverty on a daily basis have far greater insight not just into the challenges they face, but a really deep understanding of what needs to change, and some of the best ideas for doing so.

In my experience, there is nothing more transformative than enabling a group of people to bond together, through sharing their own experiences and ‘truths’ about poverty, and to discover that these are not ‘personal’ problems, but shared experiences – and then to generate ideas and take action to address them together.  

This process of empowering people to ‘create their own space’ for reflection and action, is the heart of enabling people to reclaim a sense of agency, not just over their own lives, but to start to challenge and change the wider decisions, institutions and attitudes which so often constrain or negatively impact on them.

Power

Martin_Luther_King_monument

I frequently find that people both in the churches and the voluntary sector have a problem with the idea of power.  It makes us uneasy.  But I’m reliably told that there are more references to power in the Bible than to prayer.

What is power, other than, in Martin Luther King’s words “The ability to achieve a purpose…  It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change.”

We like to focus more on loving our neighbours, than on wanting to claim or challenge power.  But again, Martin Luther King challenges us to think differently: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

Transforming unjust structures is core to the mission of the church, but if we are serious about transforming the unjust structures then we have to be willing not just to speak truth to power, but to enable people to do so for themselves.

We need to talk more about race, class and poverty

One of the key insights of the past year is that we are not all in the same boat – and that poverty intersects with other social inequalities.  If we didn’t already know this, the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have brought this home with greater sharpness. 

Black people are disproportionately affected by poverty, by low pay, by poor housing, by health inequalities. These are aspects of structural racism which impinge directly on peoples lives. 

We have not done enough in the anti-poverty movement, in the churches – and within Church Action on Poverty ourselves, to acknowledge this fact, and to ensure that the views, voices and experiences of black and brown people are visible, or heard in and through our work.

But equally, poverty intersects with inequalities in relation to social class, gender and disability.  The way we frequently talk about these are as if they were separate categories of experience, but in reality, they are complex and interlocking injustices and inequalities that exacerbate poverty for specific groups of people. 

We cannot hope to create solidarity by glossing over the differences. Rather, the challenge is to build solidarity among people by affirming their specific experiences.

What does this mean in terms of what we do?

None of these are abstract ideas. 

Too often, poverty is discussed in the abstract.  For Church Action on Poverty, this has never been our way.  For us, making change happen must always start at street level, at local level, by working with small groups of people to enable them to reclaim their own dignity, agency and power. 

Our vision for building a social movement is rooted in this approach – finding ways to enable groups of people to come together in ways which are transformative. 

To paraphrase Margaret Mead, that’s the only way that true and lasting change has ever come about.

So our vision for building a social movement is still rooted in building the capacity and skills of a network of local leaders – to equip people and communities to come together. 

I now want to share some examples of how we do this in different ways and at different levels, which I will describe for the purpose of this talk as community self-organising, organizing at town or city-wide level, speaking truth to power nationally, and congregational organizing – or becoming a Church on the Margins.

Community self-organising

We know change can happen when small groups come together. I want to outline two examples here.

Self-reliant groups

The most small scale level at which we promote organising is through Self Reliant groups. Taking inspiration from the ways in which some of the poorest people in India manage to survive and thrive, almost 10 years ago the Church of Scotland decided to see how working in groups could change communities for the better.

Following a visit to see the Self Reliant Groups movement in India, in 2011, a group of women came together as its first self-reliant group (SRG) and looked at how they could generate their own capital. Through small savings, they started a lunch club, raised money and eventually started their own laundry business.

Today there are almost 100 SRGs supported by Church Action on Poverty and four partner organisations in Scotland, England, Wales and the Netherlands each with its own achievements and stories.

Each group, typically of 6-8 women, meet and save together on a regular basis, and use their own skills of creativity, craft-making, cookery etc to produce and generate small amounts of money – effectively creating their own micro-businesses. This video explains how they work:

The social impact of SRGs for people who are very economically disadvantaged, mostly women, and from very diverse ethnic backgrounds are very powerful in terms of creating a strong social solidarity amongst their members, in which their own skills, ideas and creativity is affirmed, and through which they can become producers rather than just recipients, and collectively have control of small might seem amounts of money – maybe £200 or £300 – that they themselves have generated.

The links between SRG groups are also important, with regular local peer gatherings, and national gatherings (when possible), so that each small group feels strongly connected to other groups as part of a wider SRG movement.

Your Local Pantry

Pantry volunteers unpacking stock

Since 2017 we have been also working on a second approach to community-level organising, by growing a network of Local food pantries – social supermarkets – across the UK.

Each Pantry is hosted by a local community organisation – some are in high street shops, but increasing numbers are hosted by local churches, community centres, schools, even public Libraries

This work has expanded rapidly as a response to the Covid 19 pandemic.  We will shortly be welcoming the fiftieth Local Pantry into the network, and look forward to our ten thousandth member household. This video, filmed at two of the Edinburgh Pantries, explains a bit more about what makes them so effective:

What sets Local Pantries apart from the foodbanks which many churches have opened in recent years are that they are

  • Member-run: Pantries are run along co-operative lines, by and for their members, many of the volunteers who run the Pantry are members too. Members pay a small weekly fee, so have a genuine stake in their Local Pantry
  • Open to all: Membership is open to anyone local neighbourhood, with no requirement to be referred by a professional or other person.
  • Quality: Local Pantries are deliberately created with the look and feel of a little local shop, and with a strong emphasis on good quality food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen and chilled food, including meat and dairy products, alongside the usual supplies of tins and packets that you would find in a foodbank.

We recently carried out a survey of the social impact of being a Pantry member and produced an impact report.  We gave this the title ‘Dignity, choice hope.’  This demonstrated that the impact of being a Pantry member extends far beyond simply access to food.  Every Pantry member is able to save at least £15 on their weekly food shop, which equates to an annual saving of up to £780 a year. Beyond this

In the midst of the dark times, the Your Local Pantry network, offers a beacon of hope, demonstrating that local communities can be at the forefront of developing practical and sustainable long-term responses to the current crisis. 

Re-oxygenating local democracy: organising at town or city level

I now want to turn to two examples of organising that enable groups of people struggling against poverty to engage directly with and exercise some agency and power in relation to Government and other public and private institutions that exercise significant power over their lives at town or city-wide level.

Poverty Truth Commissions

The Poverty Truth Commission is a unique way of developing new insights and initiatives to tackle poverty, developed in Glasgow ten years ago, and now being replicated in more than a dozen towns and cities across the UK. The key principle behind a Poverty Truth Commission is that decisions about poverty must involve people who directly face poverty:  Nothing About Us Without Us is For Us.

The Commission process is one of deep listening, relationship building, and shared reflection over a 12-18 month period between people with a direct experience of poverty and civic and business leaders within a town or city. 

Two years ago, I co-facilitated the Salford Poverty Truth Commission in Greater Manchester, which was sponsored by the Bishop of Salford and the Salford’s City Mayor, and which brought together 15 civic and business leaders with 15 people from across Salford who each had their own personal experience of and ‘truth’ about poverty to share.    

In preparing for the launch, the ‘grassroots’ Commissioners jointly produced a graphic map of the key issues and problems they experienced living in poverty in the City.  Slap bang in the middle of the map was an image of Salford Civic Centre.

Debbie Brown, who represented Salford City Council on the Commission, recalled her reaction to seeing this at the launch: “The thing that stopped me in my tracks was a picture of Salford Civic Centre – the City Council was identified as cause of poverty. I was devastated! I hadn’t expected to see that at all!”

As the Commissioners shared their stories over the coming months, what transpired was that several of the grassroots Commissioners had traumatic experiences of bailiffs arriving at their front door, sent by Salford Council with the power to seize and sell their property to repay their Council Tax debts.  One Commissioner told how a Council Tax debt of less than £100 had grown to over £1,000 once court charges and bailiffs fees had been added, putting her deeper into debt.  

As Debbie said, “We heard some real heartbreaking stories of hiding behind sofas and being afraid of what was going to happen: that was not the city I recognised and certainly not the Council I know”.

In response to this, the Poverty Truth Commission brought together several of the grassroots Commissioners with the head of Council Tax collection in Salford, who was ultimately responsible for sending the bailiffs in. At the workshop he carefully explained the process for sending out reminder letters to those who hadn’t paid their bills. 

Patrick, one of the grassroots Commissioners said “Yes, I remember those. They came in brown envelopes, and go straight into the draw.  I can’t open them.  I suffer from ‘brown envelope’ syndrome.”

The most shocking revelation from the workshop was that the first point of human contact that anyone would have in the process was the bailiff sent to your house to seize and sell your property.

Patrick’s reaction to this was the key to changing Council thinking.  “Back in the day, in Ireland, if I had any problems with the council, I would go and see Mrs Mack. That’s what we need to get back to.  Salford needs its very own Mrs Mack.”

This lead directly to significant changes to Salford’s debt collection process – including swapping brown envelopes for white envelopes. 

As Debbie now says: “…The City Council has changed a lot already, towards a more person centred approach – we now run coffee morning drop-in sessions for any Salford resident who wants to talk through any problems with Council Tax face to face – and we have stopped using bailiffs to collect Council Tax debts from people on low incomes.            


Through the Poverty Truth Commission, the collective wisdom and insights of a group of people sharing their own personal ‘truths’ about poverty has kicked started a process of culture change at Salford City Council, towards a much more human and people-centred approach to engaging with its citizens. 

“I am not naïvely thinking we can change the world overnight, but if anybody anywhere else needed motivation, just look at what we have achieved in Salford.” 

Participatory budgeting

I also want to briefly mention Participatory Budgeting: a process of participatory deliberation and decision-making over the allocation of ‘our’ public funds.

The idea was originated by the Brazilian People’s Party in the city of Porto Allegre in the 1980s. Church Action on Poverty, along with Oxfam, was responsible for introducing Participatory Budgeting to the UK. 

For more than ten years until 2012, Church Action on Poverty hosted a Participatory Budgeting Unit, and worked in partnership with central Government, to assist and advise more than 120 local Participatory Budgeting processes, in which local people directly decided how to spend pots of public funding ranging from a few thousand pounds up to tens of thousands of pounds. 

Our Peoples Budget campaign promoted the idea that all public bodies should allocate one percent of their funds using Participatory Budgeting.

The Scottish Government has now adopted this policy, which will eventually mean that £100 million of funds spent by local authorities across Scotland will be allocated directly according to the wishes and votes of local people. 

Speaking truth to power: organising nationally

Church Action on Poverty has been known for prioritising and amplifying the voices people in poverty nationally since the late 1990s. It is more authentic for people to speak their own truth to power than for church leaders, or me as a director of a charity, to speak on their behalf.

Over the years we have run high profile national campaigns on asylum, debt, Living Wages, tax avoidance but have focussed much of our work over the past six years on the subject of food poverty.

However, rather than focus on our campaigns, I would like to share the story of one young campaigner, who has been an inspiration to me over the past four years.

Tia Clarke, is a young activist from Blackburn in the North West of England, who has just turned 18, but was 15 when she first started her engagement with us. 

Tia and other members of her local child food poverty campaign group have been instrumental in the national #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTYCAMPAIGN.

They are no strangers to campaigning as their involvement is a result of their own campaign in their home town of Blackburn. This campaign was based on experiences at their school where they and their friends living in food poverty often went without meals.

Their hunger led to a lack of concentration in the classroom and tempers flaring with teachers and classmates. With 40% of children growing up in food poverty in their local area, they could see where the system was failing them and set out to fix it.

In Tia’s own words

“Food poverty happens all around me. When you are hungry you get in a mood. Then you are in a mood all day and you just want food. To tackle food poverty schools should get more involved, they should look at pupils’ personal experiences and the Government should help as well.

“I became involved in the Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance which is part of Church Action on Poverty’s Food Power programme in October 2017. Since then I have shared my own experience of food poverty both locally & nationally, and was one of a small group of young people who set up the #DarwengetsHangry Campaign.

In 2018 I became involved in the national Children’s Future Food Inquiry. This has involved speaking to MP’s in Westminster, appearing on Channel 4 News, as well as being featured in national newspapers.”

The #ENDCHILDFOOD POVERTY campaign has received national profile, and in the past nine months has twice forced Boris Johnston to U-turn and agree to provide Government funding for children who would normally receive free school meals, but who have not been able to do so because their schools were closed due to the pandemic. 

You can see Tia on Channel 4 News here:

One of the strengths of the campaign has been the power of the voices of people with personal experience of food poverty as children.  The most high profile has been Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford – who himself went hungry as a child – and whose petition was signed by more than one million people.  Alongside him Tia and other young campaigners with lived experience have been adding their voices to the campaign.

In September, Tia and others in the group met with Marcus Rashford to film a prime time BBC TV documentary, at our offices in Salford. In this, they discussed their own experiences of food poverty in Blackburn, the #DarwengetsHangry campaign and their demands of government as part of the #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY campaign.          

“It’s amazing that we finally have so many people behind us… I want to say thank you especially to Marcus for helping people understand what it’s like and put our voices even more out there for all these people who are now behind us and I’m so excited for what’s going to come next.”

Investing in becoming a church on the margins

Turning lastly to the question of ‘what has all this got to do with the task of being Church? Over recent years we have begun to explore more directly the challenge to the church of what it would mean to respond in practical and tangible ways to Pope Francis’ challenge to be or become a ‘Poor church of and for the poor.’

This has included producing an initial popular report setting out in clear terms the challenge to the churches, but also ways in which different denominations are already responding.

We have also started to bring together groups of people living and working in poorer neighbourhoods in Sheffield and Manchester to explore these questions for themselves.

Ultimately, however, this is a question for the churches at all levels – not just in poor neighbourhoods: As institutions that deploy hundreds of clergy and other staff and in many cases hold investments of tens or hundreds of millions of pounds.

“Not just a food bank for the poor, a debt advice project for the poor, a campaigning organisation for the poor… A church for the poor.”  Rev Al Barrett

Part of our inspiration for this work is the Church of Scotland, who more than ten years ago made a national commitment to say that Mission and Ministry in the ten percent poorest neighbourhoods in Scotland was THE Gospel priority. 

Since then they have allocated twice as much ministerial resource to Priority areas, and funded some of the most innovative anti-poverty initiatives in the country – including starting the first Self Reliant Groups and Poverty Truth Commission in the UK.

“Priority for the poorest and the most marginalised is the gospel imperative facing the whole Church, not just the Church in the poorest places.”

We are excited that partly as a result of our programme, in July 2020 the Methodist Church at national level committed to spend £8 million over the next 5 years on a ‘church at the margins’ programme to be invested in ministry in and led by marginalised communities themselves. We are starting to explore what it will mean to be a partner with them in this work over the coming years.

It is our aspiration that other denominations will follow the example of the Methodist Church and Church of Scotland in committing significant and long-term funding to investing in programmes which live out the Churches’ wider commitment to the poorest and most economically marginalised communities, as the Gospel priority, over the coming years.

I will finish with the words of Deacon Eunice Attwood, who has recently been appointed national Church at the Margins worker for the Methodist church:

Church at the Edge: Young, woke and Christian

Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

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Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

What happened when Manchester sat down to talk about poverty…

Sheffield Pilgrimage: pandemic boosts community spirit, but leaves physical and mental scars

How grassroots films change views of poverty

13th Sheffield Pilgrimage, 2021

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Lent course for 2022: Life on the Breadline

Our Cookery Book

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

Seeking food justice in York

Jayne and Shaun’s story: creativity, self-reliance and truth

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The story of a Cornish food and community revolution

“You are worthy. Don’t ever give up.”

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

How have Christians responded to poverty during austerity?

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Listening…

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What’s the best way to reduce the stigma of food poverty?

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Look up child

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Vacancy: Events and Digital Communications Facilitator

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

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

12 stories of hope for 2022 – and immediate actions you can take

The 2022 Dignity, Agency, Power photo calendar is packed with inspiring and uplifting people helping to loosen poverty's grip.

Copies are being sent to Church Action on Poverty’s supporters. If you’re not on our mailing list and would like to order copies, email us.

Here’s is a preview, showing the 12 featured stories. For each one, we also suggest a simple immediate step you can take, to help propel the movement to end poverty.

1. Meet Jayne & Shaun

Jayne Gosnall and Shaun Kelly

Jayne Gosnall and Shaun Kelly have inspired many others by
sharing their stories, poetry and creativity, including in the Same Boat? anthology and through the Self-Reliant Group movement.

Jayne was also part of Salford Poverty Truth Commission and has spoken up in the media about poverty.

She says: “One of the best things that has happened to me is getting involved in projects through Church Action on Poverty. It’s a great organisation and what I like is that they always try to get normal voices in there, which is really good.

“One of the things that happens with people in poverty is that their confidence and self-esteem are affected so it’s really important that people are encouraged to use their voice, even if they do not feel they have got one.”

  • Photo by Madeleine Penfold

2. All aboard for tax justice

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.

  • Photo by The Press newspaper in York.

3. A love letter to brave souls

Ellis Howard

To challenge poverty, it’s vital that people with direct experience are heard.

Ellis Howard, an actor-writer from Liverpool, ran workshops
with Church Action on Poverty in 2020, showing how people can
use their lived experiences and transform them into activism, using stories of struggle, hunger or poverty to build power and shape the future.

Ellis’ contribution to our Same Boat? poetry anthology on
poverty and lockdown was “a love letter to those brave souls who history continually tries to undermine, but we don’t let it.”

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

  • Photo by Madeleine Penfold

4. A bold vision to end hunger

End Hunger UK campaigners

The End Hunger UK campaign, coordinated by Church Action
on Poverty from 2016 to 2020, brought together faith groups,
campaigners and charities, united by a bold vision of a country
where everyone has access to good food.

One of the brightest events was when the Food Glorious Food choir, formed in a Sheffield food bank, sang at the city’s Cathedral as part of a day of action.

There is a long way to go, but campaigning has helped ensure that the Government now properly monitors food poverty, and is funding a programme of food and activities which goes some way to tackling the growing problem of holiday hunger.

  • Photo by Alexandra Wallace

5. Food with dignity

Volunteers Christine Hoy and Karen Paterson at the Fresh Start Your Local Pantry in Edinburgh

The Your Local Pantry network safeguards food access without compromising on dignity.

The number of Pantries supported by Church Action on Poverty
has more than trebled in the past two years. Over 11,000 households are now members.

Pantries reduce costs, strengthen community, combat isolation and improve health and wellbeing. They are bustling triumphs of community, and can be the cornerstone for future progress.

Pictured are volunteers Christine Hoy and Karen Paterson, at the Fresh Start Pantry in Edinburgh.

  • Photo by Christopher Cook. 

6. Tackling Debt on our Doorstep

Debt On Our Doorstep campaigners in Westminster

For many years, ‘doorstep lenders’ and ‘rent-to-own’ companies
were a scourge on poor communities, charging exorbitant rates
to people who had nowhere else to turn.

We knew it would take a broad effort to bring change, so the Debt On Our Doorstep campaign brought together churches, credit unions, experts on debt and credit, and most importantly, people with personal experience of debt and high-cost lending.

This picture shows our ‘loan sharks’ demonstration outside Parliament. Campaigning paid off… Government regulators finally took action, introducing a cap on the cost of credit and other regulations which ultimately led to Wonga, Provident Financial and other lenders having to cease their exploitative practices.

  • Photo from Church Action on Poverty archives.

7. July

Stef Benstead

Stef Benstead knew first-hand how badly the UK was treating disabled people, and wasn’t willing to stay silent. Her book, Second Class Citizens, charted the way that disabled people’s rights had been breached and set out a vision for a better way.

Stef, a Church Action on Poverty trustee, was also part of Manchester Poverty Truth Commission, which has brought people in poverty and decision-makers together, to find solutions through their shared wisdom. 

8. August

The Pilgrimage Against Poverty in 1999

In August 1999, The Pilgrimage Against Poverty began on the Scottish island of Iona. Nine weeks later, with hundreds of walkers having taken part, it reached Westminster, where some of the Pilgrims met the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, setting out proposals to tackle poverty.

The Pilgrimage, organised by Church Action on Poverty, shone a light on poverty in the UK and pressed for change, mobilising and energising supporters as never before.

9. September

Monica Gregory

Monica Gregory, who works with homeless people in Oxford, has been speaking out as part of Church Action on Poverty and Sustain’s Food Power programme, and also took part in a Food Experiences panel work to understand food insecurity in the context of covid.

Monica found confidence through the work to speak up about poverty in Oxford, which is often hidden.

She says: “It doesn’t matter what people think of you, you know, as long as you believe in yourself and you love yourself. Just look in the mirror and tell yourself that you know that you love yourself and that you are worthy. Don’t ever give up.”

10. October

The Greater Manchester Big Poverty Conversation, as part of Challenge Poverty Week England and Wales

All over the UK, there are people whose experience of poverty has given them powerful insights into what could make a difference. Challenge Poverty Week each October amplifies voices that are too often drowned out and focuses on solutions.

If we harness our collective kindness, determination and wisdom, we can build the compassionate and just society that we all crave. 

You can sign up below to find out what’s happening in 2022, or to take part. challengepoverty.net in Scotland or challengepoverty.co.uk in England and Wales. 

11. November

Self Reliant Group

Great things can happen when people come together. Self-Reliant Groups are proof of that. Each group is run by and for its members, creating new freedom in their lives and alleviating many aspects of poverty such as marginalisation and a lack of power. Groups meet regularly, save together, make collective decisions and learn new skills together, with the potential to become a business.

Church Action on Poverty leads the growth of groups in the North West of England.

12. December

Participatory Budgeting

Local people know best what their community needs, so it is right that they should decide how money is spent in their town or city.

That idea ought not to sound radical, but in the early 2000s it was. The concept of participatory budgeting began in Brazil in the 1990s, and when a group from Salford visited ten years later, they brought the idea back to the UK, involving thousands of people in more than 200 areas.

Phil Teece, who led the work for Church Action on Poverty, says: “Citizens are as capable, or more capable, of making the decisions that will affect them most. That’s a very powerful message. It’s not about alleviating poverty per se, but it’s transferring power and giving people the confidence to engage. It makes a big difference to people who felt they had no power whatsoever.”

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

Vacancy: Speaking Truth to Power Development Coordinator

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

Hope story 1: tenacity and change in Salford

12 stories of hope for 2022 – and immediate actions you can take

How Thrive took control of the agenda in 2021

Annual review 2020–21

2021 conference: watch the recordings

Long read: How do we build dignity, agency & power together?

What happened when Manchester sat down to talk about poverty…

Sheffield Pilgrimage: pandemic boosts community spirit, but leaves physical and mental scars

How grassroots films change views of poverty

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

Lent course for 2022: Life on the Breadline

Our Cookery Book

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

Seeking food justice in York

Jayne and Shaun’s story: creativity, self-reliance and truth

Sign the Anti-Poverty Charter!

The story of a Cornish food and community revolution

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