08 February 2002

Charity challenge to live on minimum wage for six weeks of Lent

Former Methodist Conference President Rev Inderjit Bhogal is among church leaders who are supporting a national Lent campaign by agreeing to live on the minimum wage for six weeks up to Easter.

Church Action on Poverty, the ecumenical anti-poverty pressure group is campaigning to highlight the inadequacy of the minimum wage with the campaign. Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, who is taking up the "lent challenge" along with his wife and three children, said: "Although the minimum wage is a step forward, the rate it has been set at is very low and only allows a meagre existence. We want to see a "living wage" that will ensure life in all its fullness."

Participants, other than Mr Bhogal, include the Anglican Bishop of Wolverhampton, Rt Rev Michael Bourke. During the Lent Challenge, participants will keep an income diary of life on a low income. On Sunday 10 February (Unemployment Sunday), Church Action on Poverty is launching a Living Wage campaign aimed at persuading churches to pay all their employees a Living Wage and campaign for an increase in the level of the national minimum wage.

Millions of workers are affected by the issue of low pay. Church Action on Poverty is calling for an increase in the National Minimum Wage from £4.10 to £5.80 per hour and the abolition of the lower rate for 18-21 years olds. A rate of £6.30 should apply to workers in London.

Oliver Fernandes, an officer for Church Action on Poverty, lived on the minimum wage for six weeks as research for the campaign. He said: "Life on the minimum wage is extremely difficult and going into debt is very much a reality. We want to raise the issue of low pay and the restrictions it causes to a wider audience and thus start a nationwide campaign for a living wage."

More information and a resource pack is available fromChurch Action on Poverty

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