THE Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has called on churches
to demonstrate "love-in-action" to tackle what he called "the new
"The extraordinary feature of what I call the 'new poverty' is
that many of the 'new poor' are in work," Dr Sentamu said in a
presidential address to the General Synod this week. "Once upon a
time you couldn't really be living-in-poverty if you had a regular
income. You could find yourself on a low income, yes, but not
living in poverty, but that is no longer so. You can be in work and
still be in poverty."
The "increasing poverty in a land of plenty" was a "blight", he
said. "We are a developed economy and a first-world country, so how
can it be that in this day and age we are seeing malnutrition, food
poverty and energy poverty at such levels in our country."
Dr Sentamu queried a recent Yorkshire Post report about a
trebling of the number of people admitted to hospital in Leeds to
be treated for malnutrition: "How can it be that, last year, more
than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in
Leeds - not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka, but Leeds."
He said that "the impact of welfare reforms is now beginning to
bite, with reductions in housing benefits for so-called
under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for
workless householders and single parents, and the gradual
replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with a Personal
In the UK, the link between poverty and poor housing had been
broken, so that it was "increasingly possible to be very poor but
still live in a decent home," he said; but he warned that this was
now at risk, "as overcrowding, poor housing conditions and
insecurity once again become associated with poverty."
Governments "cannot do much more than tinker with the
deep-seated trends," he said, making the case that "the requirement
for love-in-action by the Church becomes more urgent.
"The Church will and must respond positively. Relieving poverty
is part of what it means to be Christian. . . Parishes up and down
the country are striving hard to tackle the consequences of
poverty. . . Indeed, for a parish not to be doing something about
it is becoming the exception rather than the rule.
"The Church can make an impact when its members, at every level,
recognise that they have a responsibility to reflect the
experience, the life, the troubles, the fears and the hopes of
those among whom we serve; whether it is the individual local
church volunteer helping their neighbour; the parish making
representatives to the local council; groups of Christian
business-people challenging company ethics; bishops speaking to
civic leaders in their dioceses; or the Lords Spiritual raising the
debate in the House of Lords. . .
"Poverty is costly, wasteful and risky," he said. "It seems to
me that we in the Church of England must make the argument that
losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we
can gather is hugely wasteful [and] that paying people below the
level required for subsistence fractures the social contract . . .
and that this is risky."