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UK church and policymakers unite in parliament to talk cost of living

An opportunity for policymakers and Christian-led organisations to come together, collaborate and discuss better ways of working when addressing the cost of living crisis.

FEATURES AUTOR 351/Alicia_Edmund 04 DE NOVIEMBRE DE 2022 11:54 h
Panel Talk - Natalie Williams, Andy Frost, Alicia Edmund, Gareth McNab. / Photo: [link]EAUK[/link].

On Wednesday, 2 November, the Evangelical Alliance and Christians Against Poverty hosted a joint event in Westminster to discuss “The church’s response to the cost of living crisis”.

The evening was an opportunity for policymakers and Christian-led organisations to come together, collaborate and discuss better ways of working when addressing the cost of living crisis.

More than 60 individuals representing government departments, parliamentarians and poverty relief organisations came together at Portcullis House, to hear about the compassionate and creative ways churches are providing support to those most in need.

The night was a mix of presentations, opening with a video address from Dr John Kirby urging policymakers to ​“not be complacent in this moment and provide additional financial support for those struggling”. This followed on from hearing from a retired gentleman sharing about his struggles with gambling and debt, and how Christians Against Poverty have supported him during the rising cost of living crisis. We also had two MPs share reflections, followed by a panel discussion from Christian charities sharing about the incredible work churches are doing, but also highlighting the challenges churches face in providing ongoing support.

In his opening address, Danny Webster (director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance) said, “the church is the most overlooked social support structure in our nations. In every community, Christians are committed to loving their neighbour and making a difference in their communities. Churches and Christian organisations provide life-changing support and provision for those in greatest need. They are often the first to respond and the ones who stick around long after headlines have faded and attention shifted.”

Neither the church nor the government can tackle this crisis alone, we need each other.

[photo_footer]   Danny Webster, Danny Kruger MP for Devizes and Sir Stephen Timms MP for East Ham and Chair of Department for Work and Pensions. / Photo: EAUK[/photo_footer] 

Attendees heard reflections from a Conservative MP and a Labour MP. Both applauded the work Christian organisations and churches are doing and the difference they are making in their respective constituencies.

Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes and former adviser to the Levelling-up agenda, acknowledged the role of churches in local communities but urged his colleagues in government and Westminster to invest in ​“mutual respected conversations” with churches and Christian organisations in future policy engagement.

Sir Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham and chair for the All Party parliamentary group on Faith and Society described churches as ​“indispensable partners” and spoke very highly of local church foodbanks working during Easter holidays in 2021 and adapting support services to meet today’s needs.

For parliamentarians, whether of faith or none, to effectively tackle the cost of living crisis, it is crucial that they build and maintain relationships with churches and Christian organisations operating in their constituency. MPs exist to serve their constituency and churches can be an added source of information on the ground and expertise in resolving social issues.

Alicia Edmund (head of public policy for the Evangelical Alliance) chaired a panel with Gareth McNab from Christians Against Poverty, Natalie Williams from Jubliee+ and Andy Frost from Gather Movement. Together they have extensive experience and expertise in equipping local churches to support low-income households or poverty stricken communities.

Andy Frost, joint chief executive from Gather Movement, shared his concerns on the rise in mental health issues and how unity partnerships between church and statutory services in London and across the country are training church leaders in suicide prevention and mental health first aid.

Natalie Williams, chief executive from Jubliee+ shared how her own church is spending an additional £4,000 to top up food items for those using the foodbank – a great act of kindness and generosity, but, as she shared, not a sustainable solution.

Gareth McNab, director of external affairs from Christians Against Poverty, spoke passionately about the difficulties low-income households are facing to pay bills and he urged the prime minister to uphold his leadership pledge to increase universal credit in line with inflation.

[photo_footer] Natalie Williams, Andy Frost, Alicia Edmund, Gareth McNab, Danny Webster and Ellie Gage (from left to right) / Photo: EAUK[/photo_footer] 

The event was a timely conversation, showing the different localised responses as well as UK-wide challenges churches and Christian organisations face. Our hope is that in what parliamentarians and civil servants heard, they will be led to develop strategic partnerships with churches in the months and years to come.

The varied support local churches provide is too invaluable for policymakers to ignore.

This parliamentary event is one step towards improving policymakers awareness about the church’s response to the cost of living crisis. The other is in tabling a Westminster Hall debate between MPs and government ministers.

A Westminster Hall debate provides MPs with an opportunity to raise local or national issues. The significance of these debates is that government ministers are expected to contribute and respond to the debate.

Both the Evangelical Alliance and Christians Against Poverty are calling on MPs from different political parties to table a Westminster Hall debate on the contribution of the UK church in responding to the cost of living crisis and discuss how they can collectively support its vital work in local communities.

Three ways member organisations can learn from other evangelicals engaged and responding to the cost of living crisis:

- Get inspired by reading Stories of Hope: Cost of Living. This is a short booklet capturing nine stories of how churches and Christian organisations across the UK are supporting the most vulnerable in society.

- Find out about warm spaces operating near you. The Evangelical Alliance is supporting and encouraging member churches and individuals to connect with warm spaces providing friendship and support this winter.

- Build relationships with elected representatives (MPs, mayors and others) in your constituency. Gather Movement is a member organisation with extensive experience in building partnerships between Christian social action projects and civic leaders across England and Wales and internationally. They have a produced an article sharing top tips in engaging elected leaders.

Alicia Edmund, Head of public policy of the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK). This article was first published on the EAUK's website and re-published with permission.




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