Saturday, 20 July 2024

Invisible Poverty

I am writing this in the week where we heard of new plans by the government to criminalise homelessness. Under proposals that form part of the UK government's flagship crime bill, police in England and Wales are to be given powers to fine or move on rough sleepers deemed to be causing a 'nuisance'. This has understandably provoked outcry and placed the issue of homelessness and the poverty that surrounds it, at the top of the national news agenda, and rightly so.

Homelessness is all too visible in our towns and cities, and there are numerous charities that work to support these vulnerable people.

However, what about other members of our society who are living in poverty? We hear the use of food banks has increased dramatically over recent years, but, unless we work in a food bank, do we actually see the people who use them?

Child Poverty affects almost a third of all children in the UK, and yet this poverty is almost invisible. We don't pass a school child in the street, wondering if their uniform was obtained by a grant from universal credit, or whether they ate their last meal of the day at lunchtime. These children go back to their homes, and we are none the wiser.

At school, children who are living in poverty can at least be warm, dry and receive a free school meal. Yet instead of being a safe place for them to be, they are often punished as a direct result of living in poverty. Many children do not have beds to sleep in, or have to take turns with other siblings, and some have chaotic home lives which result in a lack of decent sleep. An inability to concentrate on schoolwork, falling asleep and disruptive behaviour leads to detention and this punishment is a direct result of their poverty. These children are not expected to achieve good results from their education.

Br Alan Holdsworth is a member of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and has been campaigning tirelessly for many years against child poverty. In 2018 he brought a proposal to Synod and has been key in raising awareness of this issue to the Province. He also sits on the Mission and Society Committee, and, on Thursday 14th March, the committee welcomed Lizzie Flew and Leo Nathan from CPAG who gave us a presentation on their work.

CPAG was founded in 1965, and that year they wrote the first of many letters to the Prime Minister, stating that half a million children were living in poverty. This number is now 4.2 million. They campaign on all the issues that are causing child poverty and seek to raise awareness on all aspects of its causes and consequences.
There is no doubt that child poverty is something that our government should be tackling to alleviate, yet there are still policies in place that create more child poverty, and this needs to be addressed. Seven years ago, the two-child limit policy came into force. It meant that any parents having a third or subsequent child after that date would not qualify for additional support through child tax credit or universal credit. Abolishing the two-child limit is the most cost-effective way of reducing child poverty - it would lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and a further 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty at a cost of just £1.3 billion.

There are actions we can take to make child poverty a more visible issue, raise the awareness and change the lives of so many children:

  • Become a member of CPAG and keep informed of the vital work they are doing.
  • Ask your MP what they are doing towards ending child poverty.
  • Ask the other parties what their policy on the two-child limit would be if they won the general election.
  • You can make a donation to CPAG by sending it to Moravian Union, Sort Code: 40-52-40 and Account Number: 00023436 or we can take a card payment at Church House by phone. All donations received will be Gift Aided where possible and forwarded on to CPAG.

Sr Lindsey Newens
Mission and Society Committee

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


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