Over the years the gap between the rich and poor has widened in the country due to multiple factors including low supply of affordable housing, housing costs, low-paid and insecure jobs and overall wages not keeping up with the higher cost of living. A significant number of families and individuals are struggling to make ends meet.
This problem is particularly acute in London:
– Food bank provision increased by 128% in the 6 months to September 2020
– Total number of people on benefits increased by 44% between August 2019 and August 2020
– 2.5 million people live in poverty: 28% of the population compared to 22% across the UK, and 39% of the UKME population
– 76% of children in poverty in London are in working families. This has increased from 52% a decade ago.
– 250,000 pensioners in London lived in poverty in 2017/18
Trust for London, London’s Poverty Profiles 2020 and 2021
As well as material poverty, there is also the growing issue of social isolation and loneliness and related consequences for people’s mental health which we cannot afford to ignore.
These are just a handful of the issues facing communities. Together Southwark is committed to doing all it can to support churches in these areas of work and foster partnership with communities to respond to such needs.
Areas of Work
Our work is based in South London and part of East Surrey, the area covered by the Diocese of Southwark.
An increasing number of households up and down the country are faced with a daily struggle to make ends meet. Testimonies abound of parents skipping meals so their children can have enough to eat. We can see the struggle in our Lunchbox Library projects which offer a combination of hot lunch, fun activities and reading for fun with the children. For many of these children, that food tends to be their only hot meal of the day. So, it has been heart-breaking to see parents pack bags of apples and pears in prams to fill up stomachs in the evening when children would feel hungry again.
Holiday Provision – Lunchbox Library
This is a partnership with local churches, schools, community groups and voluntary organisations in collaboration with local authorities to assist an increasing number of families who are struggling to make ends meet during school holidays, particularly the long summer holidays.
Lunchbox Library hubs provide a safe environment offering children aged between 5 to 13 years old a hot, nutritious and tasty meal, a wide range of fun activities and reading for pleasure with the children, which helps prevent the trend for their reading skills to dip over the holidays. Accompanying adults are encouraged to stay and join in the activities as well. That has helped create a good community atmosphere in which children and accompanying adults can socialise and learn budget tasty recipes. Furthermore, using this approach has enabled us to sign-post accompanying adults for additional support for a longer-term impact. Do get in touch with our team if your church would like to join us in this project to support more children and their families.
Lambeth Holiday Provision Steering Group
Together Southwark co-created the Steering Group which brings together local organisations, community groups and public sector organisations for a more coordinated approach to holiday provision projects and a sharing of resources through collaboration. The partnership has resulted in a joint bid and four successful holiday hubs which have run across four sites since 2018. Do get in touch if you would like to join.
Member of Southwark Food Action Alliance
Together Southwark has prioritised initiatives that help build the resilience of families beyond school holidays. Through the Southwark Food Action Alliance, facilitated by the Public Health Division of Southwark Council, Together Southwark has contributed to strategic work on food security with other member organisations and groups. That work has included a three-year plan titled Fairer Food Southwark: A Borough-wide Action Plan to Increase Household Food Security.
People experiencing financial distress, particularly those on low incomes, are often reluctant to talk about their problems or seek help. And the complexity of different financial products, and the benefits and allowances systems, often makes the idea of finding a solution seem impossible.
Together Southwark works through churches and with local community groups to tackle these issues. We organise sessions to teach people about budgeting and money management, and to help build their financial confidence. And we partner with the Just Finance Foundation to increase the supply of fair and affordable finance.
Universal Credit training
Together Southwark has organised Universal Credit training sessions for members of the clergy and lay leaders to better support individuals and families during the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Acts 435 is one of our partner charities, an online giving charity directly connecting those who want to give with those who are in genuine need of their financial help. It is a free resource for UK churches and charities. It is a quick and easy way to make a difference to the lives of people living in poverty as well as those who fall on hard times. Together Southwark has already enabled the creation of an Acts project at St George The Martyr, Southwark. All your church needs to set this up is one Advocate who has access to the Internet. Interested? Find out more by watching the video.
For more information visit the Acts 435 website and contact our team.
Healthy Start Programme at Lunchbox Library
Healthy Start is a government-funded programme which offers vouchers for free fruit, vegetables and milk to low-income pregnant women and families with a child under the age of four. Families whose children attend Lunchbox Library often struggle to afford vegetables and especially fruit, which are essential for a healthy diet. We encourage parishes to share information about the Healthy Start programme, and how to apply, with adults who accompany children to Lunchbox Library. All the information on how to help a family apply for the vouchers is on the Healthy Start website.
We want our communities to flourish and enjoy life in all its fullness. But, of course, every community is different, and the changes people are looking for will be different too.
That’s why Together Southwark believes in bringing people together and helping them work together to improve things in their own neighbourhoods. We help churches and communities decide what they want to do, and then we draw on our contacts, knowledge and experience to help create individual projects that will bring about positive change. Do get in touch if you would like to discuss your project.
Loneliness and Social Isolation
Everyone needs friendship and conversation. Yet we know that loneliness and social isolation are real issues for lots of people in the UK – of all ages. And the number of people who describe themselves as lonely is growing every year. This can have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of a person, in turn preventing them to actively contribute to society.
Working with parishes and external charities, Together Southwark has already enabled the creation of Places of Welcome. We also support the inclusion of successful schemes trialled by external partners to avoid duplication. And we will not stop there, because we understand just how important it is to be able to have flourishing communities.
Places of Welcome
Places of Welcome is a growing network of local churches and community groups providing their neighbourhoods with places where all people feel safe to belong, connect and contribute. It started in the West Midlands. They are run by local churches and community groups who want everyone in their neighbourhood to have a place to go to for a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation. The difference with a usual coffee morning is that people are given a chance to actively contribute in the running of activities and with sharing their gifts and skills with others.
For more information visit the Places of Welcome website. If you would like to set one up, get in touch with our team.
Love Your Neighbour
Volunteer teams across the UK are delivering food to people in need, phoning the isolated, providing specialised advice and offering support to local hospitals.
Love Your Neighbour has already partnered with some churches in the Diocese such as St Peter’s, Brockley.
For more information contact the Love Your Neighbour team.
A telephone befriending tool for local churches, developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Linking Lives, a charity working to reduce social isolation.
The model is based on a home visiting approach which has been used by the charity since 2012. It offers a clear framework for befriending, ongoing support for the coordinator and a variety of resources for local churches to use. We have organised a partnership event together.
For more information visit the Linking Lives website.
Resources for churches and deaneries
Financial inclusion and resilience
Together Southwark explores ways to overcome financial exclusion, including by extending access to information and advice.
Energy and Water Bills
No one should have to to choose between putting food on the table or paying their energy bill. Citizens UK Fair Energy Campaign provides resources for churches to run a ‘Fair Energy Switch Day’, in which both churches and individuals can save money on their energy bills and help reduce carbon emissions by moving to cheaper and greener energy. To find out more and register your church, email [email protected] or visit www.fairenergycampaign.org.
Citizens Advice’s web page for gas and electricity price comparison. If you have limited internet access you can phone the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.
There is much more to reducing one’s water bills in addition to not leaving a tap running. Consumer Council for Water has advice and guidance to help households save money on their water bills and get help in times of need.
Empathy and a well-structured pastoral engagement with and between church members will help in reducing the isolation of its members as well as of other people in the wider community.
We have put together a selection of resources which we hope you will find useful to look at how churches can create space to talk about mental health and wellbeing with their congregations, and the challenges of poor mental health among people in the wider community. Some of the resources such as the Money Saving Expert Mental Health Guide are designed for a wider audience and so can be used by secular organisations and community groups as well.
Mental Health Access Pack has resources covering more than ten mental health subjects to help churches support people struggling with mental health issues.
Feel free to contact us at Together Southwark for more information and if your church would like to discuss existing and new projects with us.