Church Action on Poverty has called for a closing of the growing gap between rich and poor in the UK. They are also mobilising faith communities to conduct their own counts of street homeless people, as official statistics have been shown to underestimate the numbers of people sleeping rough.
The charity is using Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, which runs from 29 January to 4 February, to highlight that while the UK remains one of the five richest nations on the planet more than one in five here live below the poverty line.
CAP supports its case for inequality pointing out that the wealth of the top 10 per cent is now 100 times higher than the net wealth of the poorest 10 per cent.
Matters will be made worse over the coming months with the Coalition Government imposing its cuts agenda. This will mean among other things that up to one million sick or disabled people unable to work will lose their entitlement to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) after 12 months, worth up to £91 a week .
The Coalition Government’s cuts to housing benefit are also expected to force 50,000 families to move out of high cost areas, causing dislocation and homelessness to many.
The three year Close the Gap campaign will aim to mobilise thousands of people across the faith communities to give, act and pray to close the wealth gap (www.church-poverty.org.uk).
At the start of Poverty and Homelessness Action week, the national leaders of all the UK’s largest denominations will be at 10 Downing Street, accompanied by Kate Green MP and representatives of the charity Church Action on Poverty. They will hand in a letter to David Cameron, expressing their commitment to close the gap between rich and poor, and asking about the Coalition Government’s plans to do the same.
“The gap between rich and poor in the UK is greater than at any time in the past 40 years. Together we can close the gap - if enough people pledge to give, act and pray,” said Niall Cooper, co-ordinator of CAP, who is hoping to get at least 10,000 pledges.
Meanwhile, charity Housing Justice is launching a Who Counts campaign, which seeks to get faith communities to conduct their own counts of street homeless people.
Since 1996, local authorities have been required to do street counts if there were thought to be more than 20 people sleeping rough. This changed to estimates last September. For some time there has been concern that local authorities have undercounted in order to give the impression that their records of dealing with homelessness were better than they actually are.
The results of the unofficial counts will then be published in local media and sent to the relevant government authorities.
Housing Justice will be running around 93 different events across the country during the week (see www.actionweek.org.uk).
For more detailed information and guidance, and to view the official street count methodology as used by local authorities, see www.homeless.org.uk/evaluating-roughsleeping-toolkit