Poverty must be at the heart of this election

05 June 2024

Church communities, including Methodists, are joining forces ahead of the General Election to call for an end to poverty.

Banners with the message “Let’s End Poverty in the UK and globally” are being put up outside church buildings to invite prospective parliamentary candidates to set out clear action plans to tackle the issue.

As churches and charities increasingly fill the gap for those most in need at home and around the world, the call is being made for the next government to put an ‘ending poverty action plan’ at the top of their agenda.

Churches in the constituencies of the main party leaders launched the initiative this week with banners going up at Camden Methodist Church and Bloomsbury Baptist Church in Keir Starmer’s constituency of Holborn and St. Pancras; Kingston URC Church in Ed Davey’s constituency of Kingston and Surbiton; and seven churches in Northallerton in Rishi Sunak’s constituency of Richmond, Yorkshire.

Members of the churches have been working alongside the Let’s End Poverty movement, and the international development charity Christian Aid.

Statistics show 14.3 million people in the UK - one in five – are living below the poverty line, with one in ten classed as ‘food insecure’. And globally – according to the UN - more than 700 million people - or 10 percent of the world’s population - live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day, which is about £1.49.

Local churches serve communities with a variety of projects including foodbanks, Warm Spaces, winter night shelters and debt centres but are battling with ever rising levels of hardship. Trussell Trust foodbanks alone served a record 3.1million food parcels almost double the number given out five years ago.

Let's End Poverty
Members of Camden Methodist Church stand outside their building with a Let's End Poverty banner on display.

The Revd Gill Newton, President of the Methodist Conference, and Deacon Kerry Scarlett, Vice-President, commented; “Poverty devastates the lives of individuals (particularly children) and communities across the UK. As Methodists, our concern for the poorest in society goes back to the very start of early Methodism, and continues today in the work churches do to offer foodbanks, food pantries, debt advice centres, warm spaces and more. These acts of care and compassion need to take place alongside action for change, to persuade those in power to prioritise poverty and inequality in their decisions and policy making. We are asking that all party leaders set out how they will tackle the pressing injustice of poverty, so that all have enough to live on and to flourish.”

"As Methodists, our concern for the poorest in society goes back to the very start of early Methodism, and continues today in the work churches do to offer foodbanks, food pantries, debt advice centres, warm spaces and more."

Revd Gill Newton and Deacon Kerry Scarlett

Churches are also raising money for relief from poverty in the Global South.

In 2022/23, Christian Aid supporters helped fund more than 275 projects, reaching 3.3 million people with everything from emergency aid to agricultural schemes to combat the climate crisis.

Christian Aid’s Head of UK Advocacy and Campaigns, Jennifer Larbie, said: “Poverty is an injustice which affects people right around the world, with millions of people on the brink of survival; it doesn’t have to be this way. The UK can lead that change and whoever forms the next UK government can help transform lives by making poverty a priority.

“Christian Aid believes the next UK government should pay up for climate justice, take action to end the debt crises being faced by lower income countries and be a force for peace in the world.”

Paul Morrison is a Policy Advisor with the Joint Public Issues Team who support the Methodist, URC and Baptist Churches on matters regarding politics and faith. He commented, “The UK is a wealthy nation but today 1 in 10 people struggle to afford sufficient food and destitution has returned, touching the lives of 1 million of our children. Church projects across the country are seeing deepening poverty and increasing need. It is simply not right but with political will it can change.

"Every candidate and every party should prioritise poverty and tell voters what their plan is to turn the tide on this injustice”