A Church of England-based urban regeneration charity has launched a new public campaign to tackle poverty in England, in the aftermath of a new churches' report on urban life which said that Britain is divided society.
'Challenging Poverty' is an initiative of the Church Urban Fund (CUF), which was established after the original 1985 'Faith in the City' report. It will raise awareness of the plight of the 11.4 million people living below the poverty line in this country and encourage action in local communities.
The extent of inequality and deprivations has been highlighted by the latest churchesí investigation ëFaithful Citiesí, published last month, which involved Methodists, Catholics and other faith communities in a two-year Anglican-led research process.
The ëChallenging Povertyí campaign will enable CUF to continue its work with the top 10 per cent of the poorest communities in England, after intense discussions about its future.
Church Urban Fund invests in grass-roots projects which work to eradicate the negative effects of poverty, and which often find it hard to obtain or continue funding to transform peopleís lives.
ëChallenging Povertyí is the first time the charity has launched a high profile public awareness campaign ñ in the past it has mostly worked ëbehind the scenesí, supporting local initiatives. This has been prompted by the extension of its remit by the Church of England.
The main church-based campaign group on inequality and deprivation across the UK is the ecumenical Church Action on Poverty.
Fran Beckett, chief executive officer of the Church Urban Fund, said yesterday: ìWe live in the fifth richest country in the world and yet 20 percent of people live below the poverty line with 3.4 million of them being children. It is staggering that this level of poverty still exists in the 21st century and it is a scandal so many people believe impoverishment is invisible, when it is happening right on our doorstep.î
She continued: "In this country everyone is aware of poverty overseas because of the stark contrast between lives in the west and the developing world, yet poverty is deep rooted in our communities."
Added Ms Beckett: "We know that children raised in poverty are at least twice as likely to be poor adults and those living in deprived areas are generally more at risk of developing long-term illness and disability, and more likely to be the subject of crime."
The campaign will take place in two stages. The launch yesterday started the process of raising public awareness about poverty and the role of the Church Urban Fund. It aims to garner support from the community and attract a network of supporters.
The second stage commences in October 2006 with the launch of fundraising initiatives targeted at individuals and businesses. From an urban adventure for socially-responsible companies through to auctions, quizzes and walks for local people, there will be the opportunity for everyone to get involved, says CUF.
Ms Beckett concludes: ìTo date weíve providing funding to over 4,000 projects across the country. But ëChallenging Povertyí will enable us to step up the level of support we are providing and make a real difference to people who live in poverty everyday.î
People can support and find out more about the 'Challenging Poverty' campaign by going online at http://www.challengingpoverty.org/