THE Church Commissioners have set aside a pot of £3 million to boost the stipends of struggling clergy.
The hardship fund, announced on Monday, will be distributed to diocesan boards of finance, or nominated local discretionary funds, in two phases, the Church Times understands. The first phase of £2.5 million will be allocated by the Archbishops’ Council through block grants based on the number of stipendiary clergy in the applying diocese as stated in the latest Ministry Statistics (2020).
Dioceses will be able to request up to their full allocation based on these numbers, and are invited to request additional funding if further support is needed. This additional funding will be granted in the second phase out of the remaining £500,000.
Applicants for hardship grants are invited from stipendiary clergy, including curates; self-supporting ministers in a house-for-duty arrangement; salaried lay workers employed by the diocese or parishes, such as youth and children’s workers; and retired clerics “carrying out a specific role in support of diocesan ministry as agreed by or at the request of a bishop or archdeacon”.
Clergy stipends are now far adrift from their pre-Covid, pre-inflation value. Last June, when inflation had already quadrupled to 2.5 per cent in one year, a review of the remuneration package for stipendiary clergy officeholders in parochial ministry concluded that stipend levels were adequate for most clergy and therefore need not change (News, 25 June 2021; Features, 2 July 2021).
It was acknowledged, none the less, that, although two-thirds of the 3700 clerics who took part in the accompanying survey said that they were “living comfortably or doing all right”, one quarter said that they were “just getting by”, and 13 per cent were finding it “quite or very difficult to manage”.
Clergy with two or more children and no additional household income were more likely to report finding it difficult to manage financially. Those with disabilities, and UK minority-ethnic (UKME) clergy, were more likely to report that they were experiencing financial hardship, although the finding for the latter group was based on a small data sample.
The Clergy Renumeration Review, which was later noted by the General Synod (News, 18 February), concluded that, while pay would remain unchanged, targeted support was needed for these groups.
Since the review, inflation has soared, currently standing at seven per cent per annum, and expected to rise further. In addition, church finances have been hit by rising fuel costs and the 1.25-per-cent hike in employees’ National Insurance contributions (News, 24 September 2021).
The chair of the finance committee of the Archbishops’ Council, John Spence, said on Monday: “We know that a significant number face a challenge over the coming months in the face of the rising cost of living. Dioceses will be given additional resources to ensure that not only clergy but those lay workers such as youth and children’s workers most in need of financial support will receive the help they need.”
It is understood that inflation and the rising cost of living will be considered by the Archbishops’ Council and dioceses when they set 2023 stipend levels later this year.