Addressing poverty and inequality
God is already at work through more than a thousand churches and chaplaincies and schools in this diocese and also through each of us as individual disciples. Much is already being done to respond to the injustices of poverty and inequality.
A new area of focus for 2021 seeks to address specific questions of poverty and inequality as part of our common vision for a more Christ-like Church. The COVID-19 pandemic and the likely recession that will follow will only exacerbate existing inequalities across our diocese and the rest of the UK.
Grants of up to £200,000 available for religious charities undertaking social action:
The government has recently revealed a new pilot grant fund called the Faith New Deal which will provide funding to faith groups working with local, regional and national partners in the following areas:
- Mental wellbeing and loneliness
- Food poverty relief
- Debt advice*
- Increased community engagement
With their focus on faith groups these grants may potentially be of great value to churches working with community partners and outside organisations. The deadline for applying to the pilot is very tight, closing on 7th October, therefore if you are interested in applying and would like some support please contact the Generous Giving Adviser, Joshua Townson who will be happy to work with you on an application. The application form is attached to this email.
*This may be of relevance to churches with Christians Against Poverty or other debt advice charities.
What’s already happening?
Meals from Marlow
The congregation of All Saints Marlow have played a key role in supplying food to NHS staff during lockdown. Read the full story and get in touch with Revd Dave Bull for advice on how you can do the same.
Cutteslowe Community Larder
The Cutteslowe Community Larder supports families in need whilst reducing food waste. Read more from Revd Tom Murray, curate at St Andrew’s Church Oxford.
A team from St Mary’s, Chipping Norton, have been providing meals, craft bags and connection to their town since a week before the first lockdown hit. Read their inspiring story in full.
The Cornerstone social action project in Charlbury with Shorthampton was recently awarded a grant from the Diocese of Oxford Development Fund. Marjorie Glasgow speaks to BBC Radio Oxford.
Looking forward to 2021
The focus area group, which includes external representation from the Children’s Society, Christians Against Poverty and Citizens Advice, met for the first time in October 2020. This page will be updated with further information as their work begins to take shape. But we’re not starting from scratch…
Poverty and inequality has always been our priority
Although this is a new area of focus for our common vision, we have always prioritised issues of poverty and marginalisation through our social justice work.
Food, fuel, financial and relational poverty
In the era of austerity the Diocese supported churches to respond to issues of food, fuel, financial and relational poverty (loneliness), through a series of justice forums (issuing the highly regarded and well used resource books: 999 Food, and Loneliness, Accident or Injustice?
The changing nature of poverty
In 2017, we conducted major research into the changing profile of the nature of poverty in the Thames Valley, producing ‘For Richer for Poorer – poverty and livelihoods in the Diocese of Oxford’. The demographic and deprivation statistics on which this is based have recently been updated, and we have developed a look up tool for parishes to enable them to engage better with their contexts.
Access to housing and services
For Richer, for Poorer revealed that access to housing and services was a key issue, along with localised inequality and hidden rural poverty. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York recently launched Coming Home, a new report which sets out a bold new vision for housing and community.
We are in a strategic partnership with Citizens UK; investing £150,000 in community organising over five years to establish civil society alliances for social justice in Reading and Oxford; to support action in rural contexts, and to join these with the pre-existing and very effective Citizens Milton Keynes to form Thames Valley Citizens. The founding Assembly was held on Zoom in June 2020.
Our work with Citizens UK enables us not only to mitigate the effects of poverty and disadvantage, through our foodbanks, winter night shelters, etc, but also to challenge the underlying causes and take action for the common good. The Diocese of Oxford has been closely involved with other Citizens Chapters across the country to listen to the experiences of the most vulnerable in lockdown, and to articulate and take action on emerging injustices highlighted by COVID-19, for example the national campaign for the real living wage for care workers.
Emergent Citizens activities in Reading and Oxford have so far reached over 70 organisations: churches, mosques, the Hindu and Jewish communities; schools, colleges/universities and community groups. It is proving to be a diverse and intergenerational of bringing communities together for social justice. We want to support other forms of community engagement and social action through local initiatives led by churches elsewhere in the Diocese. In 2021 we will set up a training programme to share the methodology and tools of community organising to achieve this.