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UK Poverty: Current Needs & Two Key Resources


Poverty is deepening in the UK. There are currently 14.5 million people in poverty in the UK according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This is 22 per cent of the UK population, equivalent to 15 people on an average double-decker bus being in a financially vulnerable position. Between 2002/03 and 2019/20 the number of people in very deep poverty (below 40% of average income after housing costs) increased by 1.8 million, from 4.7 million to 6.5 million people.

New analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation using a mortgage interest rate of 5.5%, has found that an additional 120,000 households, or 400,000 people (roughly the population of Cardiff) will be pulled into poverty over the coming year. 750,000 households, or 2.4 million people, buying with a mortgage currently live in poverty.

The increase in the cost of living has increased household food insecurity. In June to July 2022, of the 91% of adults in Great Britain who reported an increase in their cost of living, 95% saw the price of their food shopping go up, and 44% had started spending less on essentials including food.

A YouGov survey by the Food Foundation found that in April 2022, 15.5% of all UK households were food insecure (which means that they ate less or went a day without eating because they couldn’t access or afford food).

The rise in the cost of living is putting pressure on food banks and their users. Between April and August 2022, over half of food banks surveyed by IFAN (which represents 550 independent food banks) found 25% or more of the people they supported hadn’t used their services before. Food bank networks have reported increased demand and falling food donations in the first half of 2022. With inflation predicted to reach between 10 and 11%, charities expect a further “surge in demand”.

Between April and August 2022, nearly 90% of IFAN food banks saw a rise in demand. IFAN also found 72% of food banks reported a drop in food donations and almost nine out of ten said they were experiencing supply issues since April 2022, with 19% having to reduce the food parcel size. If need continues to increase, according to IFAN, “68% of organisations say they may not be able to support everyone who needs their help or may have to reduce the size of their food parcels to meet increasing demand”.

Citizens Advice, one of the organisations that can supply food vouchers to access a food bank, publishes statistics on food bank referrals. In August 2022 it gave out 14,704 vouchers, around 6,500 more than in August 2021.

In January 2022, there were around 1.9 million pupils known to eligible for Free School Meals. This means there has been an increase in the proportion eligible to 22.5% of state-funded pupils (from 20.8% in January 2021, 17.3% in January 2020, and 15.4% in January 2019).

The Building Research Establishment (2021) estimates the cost to the NHS of treating those affected by poor housing as £1.4bn per year. The most costly issue to the NHS relates to excess cold. A report published in 2022 by the Institute of Health Equity notes: “Homes that are cold due to fuel poverty exacerbate health inequalities. Cold homes can cause and worsen respiratory conditions, cardiovascular diseases, poor mental health, dementia, hypothermia and problems with childhood development. In some circumstances, health problems may be exacerbated to a degree that they may cause death.”

Two Key Resources

A few months before the pandemic, Jubilee+ published an extraordinary and hugely prophetic little booklet called “A Deepening Crisis?” Though full of insight about the extent and the ways in which life was about to become even harder for those in poverty, it didn’t entirely foresee the combination of forces that would cause this to happen. In the three years since then, the landscape of poverty in our nation has changed dramatically.

Anyone involved in responding to poverty and pressing for social justice has had to adapt, sometimes repeatedly, to the pandemic and the cost of living crisis. This Saturday, November 12, Jubilee+ will host the Churches that Change Communities conference in-person and on-line.

The conference will confront key questions including:

  • How can we respond to poverty fuelled crises quickly and helpfully, working with other organisations and agencies to deliver best outcomes for our local and national communities.

  • How can we use our business ownership, leadership skills, and our ability to create wealth, for the good of those who are trapped in poverty.

  • How can we walk with people for the long-haul.

  • How to speak up for justice in society today.

  • How we’ll keep ourselves and our teams going if the number of people in poverty continues to go up.

Find out more and reserve your place here and then grab a copy of “Christian Social Action: Making a difference where you are”.

This immensely topical book is packed full of relevant research and practical guidance on identifying local needs, building a committed team, deciding how and where to do the good that’s so desperately needed, measuring and reporting results, growing resources and communicating with partners and stakeholders to build support.

Research based descriptions of today’s growing need in household debt, food, child and housing poverty are paired with inspiring historical and up-to-date examples of Christian action.

The Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, who is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society says: "As hopeful as it is sobering, John Evans’ infectious vision, set out in his guide to outreach in the context of Christian fellowship, provides a stirring call to action. Here is a practical approach, post-pandemic, to help churches tackle the injustice around them. It draws on inspiration from history, but is clear-sighted about the emerging realities of poverty in Britain today, and the barriers faith groups face in addressing them. And it lays out clear steps for trustees and leaders to establish their vision, agree on a plan and convince others of the value of their work.”

David Maskell is an elder at Grace Church Salisbury & Amesbury, with 20 years’ experience of church leadership where he has been involved in starting and running many social action projects. He writes: "What a helpful book this is for people in many different charitable roles wanting to make a difference in their community. John helpfully gives us the tools to evaluate the start up or expansion of social action projects. He helps us look at the impact of poverty and why it is worthwhile making a difference. There is a guide on how to find help with funding, and some examples of some recent projects to inspire you. I thoroughly recommend anyone contemplating starting a social action project to start with this book before you begin.”

Order your copy of “Christian Social Action: Making a difference where you are” here.

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