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.
Looking forward to 2021
The focus area group, which includes external representation from the Children’s Society and Christians Against Poverty, 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…
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.
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 Diocese published a further resource to help churches engage with issues of homelessness and housing insecurity; ‘Dwelling Places’