South Yorkshire church leaders voice concern about cuts for the poor

Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury

The most senior leaders of the eight major Christian traditions in membership of Churches Together in South Yorkshire (CTSY) have issued a joint statement of concern about the worsening impact of legislation and cuts on the poorest people in our county.

They are also committing to take practical actions.

Rev Gill Newton, Chair of CTSY, and the Chair of the Methodist Sheffield District said: “We have been increasingly concerned that the impact of the cuts in local authority services hits the poorest people hardest and that Government policies around welfare benefit changes are really hurting people.”

And also: “It’s great that Foodbanks exist to help out, but it’s shocking that they are needed at all in 21st Century UK – the fifth wealthiest country in the world.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in his joint statement with Pope Francis in October 2016: “In a culture of waste, the lives of the most vulnerable in society are often marginalised and discarded.”

Rt. Rev Ralph Heskett CCSR, Bishop of Hallam, noted that Pope Francis said in the October 2016 statement made jointly with Archbishop Justin Welby of the Anglican Communion: “Our Christian faith leads us to recognise the inestimable worth of every human life… and as apostles of Christ we must be their advocates” and so I am signing the Statement to raise concerns about the provision for people in poverty in the UK.’

Churches Together in South Yorkshire had a very powerful presentation from the CEO of St Leger Homes, Doncaster on the issue of the impact of proposed welfare benefit changes at its Spring Forum. The Leaders decided that, unless the new Theresa May administration and the Autumn Budget statement showed a marked turn-round of policy, they wanted to make a public Statement. The Christian message is one that urges practical as well as spiritual help for people in poverty. The UK is a country whose public values are rooted in the Christian faith. Government policy should be concerned with working to reduce, rather than increase, the number of people in poverty.

As the opening line of the Statement says: ‘Jesus said that the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11), but he didn’t add - so that’s all right then!’

The Church Leaders have also made a series of pledges, including committing themselves in prayer to ensuring that their churches county-wide and locally make decisions that help people in poverty.