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The next government must commit to eradicating poverty in the UK

Gareth McNab
July 4, 2024

I have been privileged to meet people and community organisations right across the country in my role as Christians Against Poverty’s Director of External Affairs. The people I talk to consistently tell me that poverty is at the front of their mind, all the time. Costs have skyrocketed over the last few years, and many people are struggling to get by on low incomes. It’s a real crisis, and it’s time for politicians to step up and take action.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a national, FCA-regulated debt help charity, offering free advice and support to thousands each year. A poll we did with YouGov showed nearly 90% of UK adults want poverty tackled urgently. That’s a huge number and shows it’s not at all a fringe issue. Poverty affects real people everywhere, stripping away dignity and hope. The numbers are staggering: 14.4 million people in the UK live on incomes that don’t meet their basic needs. 60% of our new clients are living below the poverty line, and many still can’t cover basic needs even after getting help. Nearly half of our clients have considered or attempted suicide because of financial stress. As you read, don’t let these just be numbers to you – these are real lives being torn apart by poverty. It’s heartbreaking.

Despite this, none of the major political parties have made poverty a top priority. This needs to change. It’s not enough for people to just have ‘enough’ to live on. We need to demand more from our leaders. We need systemic change that puts poverty at the top of the political agenda. Poverty and destitution shouldn’t exist in the UK. It exists because of broken systems and policies that don’t protect people enough when they fall on hard times. It exists because too many politicians aren’t facing up to the problem and taking action to change it. We all have a role to play in this. We need to raise our voices and make sure our future leaders understand that poverty has to be a priority.

Politicians must commit to eradicating poverty in the UK. And it has to start with liveable incomes. The legal minimum wage must be a Real Living Wage - one that fully takes into account the cost of living & actually covers the bills. Social security must be urgently reformed so that it provides an Essentials Guarantee to give everyone the income they need to live and prevent them from falling into destitution - with levels of support set by independent experts and a floor through which no-one can fall.

Politicians must commit to eradicating poverty in the UK. Quote

The government needs to provide awareness and support to connect everyone with the benefits they are entitled to - knowing what they are and how to claim and making it as simple and accessible as possible to do so. An estimated 23 billion pounds of benefit income is being left unclaimed, which is unacceptable when people are skipping meals or going without heating because they can’t make ends meet. That is a huge amount of money that should be in people’s pockets, not on Government balance sheets.

With energy prices set to remain high into the next decade, we are calling on the Government to put more long-term and targeted support in place - with a particular focus on ensuring local welfare assistance schemes are funded. We’ve also consistently called for a return to linking Local Housing Allowance with local rents to help people afford their rent. We also need more long-term funding to help charities like ours provide free professional debt help to more people who urgently need it.

CAP has an online tool that makes it easy for people to ask their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates what they plan to do about poverty. More than five thousand conversations have been started through the tool, and half of the emails are asking what candidates are doing to tackle poverty locally. It’s supremely clear that people want their leaders and representatives to focus on this issue far more than has been done so to date.

Christians Against Poverty, with our UK church partners through whom we provide our national network of debt centres, will work with the next Government to help people in our communities who are suffering from the crushing pressure of poverty and problem debt. We will work with opposition parties to help hold the Government to account. And after the general election, we plan to invite new MPs to visit our local CAP debt centres to see the challenges first hand and discuss the changes we believe we need to see if people trapped in poverty and problem debt are to experience a release.

Long after the results come in overnight on July 4th, we will continue our ongoing work to build a better society for all by working with people across the political spectrum who share our aim of tackling the absolute injustice of poverty in the UK. Poverty can - and must - be ended.

Gareth Mc Nabb

Gareth McNab is the Director of External Affairs at CAP.

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