Church Action on Poverty (CAP) is calling on the Britain government to take more decisive action against inequality in Britain, after official statistics indicated that more than one in four children in the UK still live in poverty.
Housing and homelessness is a particular area of concern, with the number of families living in temporary accommodation having increased by a third in the past three years.
In a response issued yesterday, CAP welcomes the progress that the government has made in tackling deprivation since 1997, but says that it has to go much further and faster if it is truly to ëmake poverty history' here in Britain.
Niall Cooper, Church Action on Poverty's national coordinator, declared: 'Although the government has now accepted the need for action to tackle the growing debt crisis in this country, it has still failed to set any targets for tackling extortionate lending and ensuring that the poorest households have access to affordable credit.'
Echoing widespread concern among the churches, CAP comments: 'One group conspicuously absent from the government's anti-poverty strategy are asylum seekers - increasing numbers of whom are ending up absolutely destitute and reliant on the goodwill of refugee communities, churches and the Red Cross simply to be fed and housed.'
The group continues: 'To achieve the goal of ending child poverty in a generation will require much greater political will and injection of resources to narrow the gap between the poorest and the rest of society.'
Church Action on Poverty is a national membership organisation founded in 1982 as an ecumenical response to poverty in Britain. It draws its 1,200 individual and organisational members from all the Christian denominations and beyond.
The next CAP conference will take place on 12 November 2005 at Methodist Central Hall in Manchester. It will explore the connections between the global Make Poverty History campaign and initiatives to tackle debt, poverty and asylum destitution in the UK.
The event is being organised in association with the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, CityLinks, Salford Diocese Justice and Peace Commission and SPEAK - an action network which is, along with the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, part of the Root and Branch network.
In past years, Church Action on Poverty has used the Lenten period to encourage more affluent Christians in Britain to try living on the minimum wage for 40 days - in order to see what hardship is like, and in order to be able to donate any money saved to anti-poverty action.