Church in Wales urges government to address poverty

Posted Apr 21, 2015

[Church in Wales] The Church in Wales is calling on the Welsh government to minimize the impact of poverty, austerity and recession on people in Wales.

It says it is seeing families and communities facing increasingly uncertain futures as services and projects shut down, people lose their jobs and harsh policies erode their dignity and sense of worth.  It warns families are struggling to feed their children due to gaps in social services.

Meanwhile more and more churches are responding to the poverty on their doorsteps by setting up services to help people in need such as food banks, credit unions, night shelters and job clubs.

The extent of church action on poverty was outlined to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales in a motion at its meeting in Llandrindod Wells.

Addressing the meeting, the Rev. Jonathan Durley, community development officer for Llandaff Diocese, said the church had a responsibility to ensure those in power were fully aware of the extent of the poverty it was seeing.

He said, “Social need changes on a daily basis initiated by the impact of closures of projects and services, redundancy and subsequent unemployment, which to illustrate from some of our experiences, may impact on families who may not be able to feed their children before and after school due to loss of income and available finance, even for essential such as food.

“We have a prophetic responsibility to ensure those who hold political and statutory power in our communities are able to hear the voice of those we walk with. We need to ensure such power holders remain informed of the changes we see and the gaps in the services we witness.”

Durley warned that poverty was not just about lack of money but also people’s dignity and that was being affected by government policies. He said, “Poverty is not necessarily solely financial, but also includes social, emotional and physical. Through the extensive network of initiatives within parishes and the wider diocese we are confronted by the serious life diminishing issues which are manifest through concrete images of individuals, families and communities experiencing increasingly uncertain futures.

“This dimension of ministry in our church works to oppose attitudes and policies which fail to respect the Christian understanding of the nature and dignity of people, whether they are general social attitude, government policies concerning the impositions of sanction on those receiving benefits, mandatory detention of asylum seekers; or policies of the Church concerning justice and God’s preference for the poor and those who experience exclusion and marginalization.”

The Governing Body heard about examples in which local churches are stepping in to help their communities. Each of its six dioceses have social responsibility officers who help develop initiatives, such as family centers, in partnership with communities. Local churches are helping to run night shelters for homeless people, job clubs, debt centers, soup kitchens, library services and food banks, while rural life advisers are providing much needed pastoral support in areas facing increased isolation due to cuts in transport services or poor communication networks.

Durley called on local churches to have regular contact with local councillors, local Assembly Ministers and Members of Parliament, inviting them to events and consultations. He asked, “With the General Election looming fast and Welsh Government elections next year, are we encouraging our neighbors to use their democratic right to vote or holding their candidates to account about their policy?”

The Governing Body members voted in favor of a motion to “call upon the Welsh Government to do all that it can to minimize the impact of poverty, austerity and recession on the people of Wales”. The motion on poverty also welcomed the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union, which was launched earlier this year, the Church’s progress towards becoming a Fair Trade Province and its revised ethical investment policy.

The Governing Body, made up of 144 clergy and lay people from across Wales, met at the Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells, on April 15-16.