POVERTY levels in the UK now are worse than they were 30 years
ago, when the charity Church Action on Poverty (CAP) was first
created, its national co-ordinator, Niall Cooper, has said.
Poverty today was "much worse" than in the early 1980s, and was
due to get worse, as the impact of the Government's spending and
welfare cuts began to bite, he said.
Mr Cooper was speaking as the charity marked its 30th
anniversary with the launch of a new five-year programme to train
congregations to address economic hardship in their area, and
tackle the negative perceptions of people in poverty.
"People are more willing to judge people and see them as the
cause of poverty," he said. "Much needs to be done to challenge
these perceptions, including in our own community. We often think
of our churches like glasses that are half empty. We think about
what they can't do, but they are still very powerful bodies. The
need for churches to work to address the underlying issues behind
poverty is greater than at any time in the past 30 years."
The Labour MP Paul Goggins, director of CAP between 1989 and
1997, said: "Church Action on Poverty was founded in response to
deep concern within the churches about homelessness, long-term
unemployment, and benefit cuts. These remain substantial issues 30
years on. . .
"CAP has always sought to give those on the margins of our
society a stronger voice and a real say in policy-making. Not only
does this bring real experiences to bear: it also reflects a
different order in which all are valued and respected."
The charity cites among its achievements lobbying the Government
to invest in credit unions, which led to the setting up of a
£180-million fund. It has also been lobbying successive governments
- less successfully - for a decade for a ceiling to be set on
interest rates, to combat loan sharks. A recent investigation by
The Independent found that some pay-day lenders are
offering Christmas loans with a 4248-per-cent APR.
CAP is also working on the Living Wage campaign (
News, 5 October), which will be debated at the General Synod
next week. The charity works to help churches address the
underlying issues of inequality and poverty, and think beyond their
immediate response of setting up food banks and offering debt
advice. It also trains residents in poor communities to empower
them to ask questions, and have a say in community projects.