Churches must be better informed about poverty - CUF

Attitudes towards poverty are “hardening” among churchgoers, Church Urban Fund has said.

The organisation has expressed dismay at the findings of its own research, which reveals vastly different attitudes to poverty between clergy and their congregations.

While three-quarters of clergy said they thought poverty was due to “social injustice”, only a fifth of regular churchgoers agreed.

A similar number of clergy (76%), said there was “quite a lot” of child poverty in Britain, but only 37% of churchgoers felt the same – the latest figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show that there are currently 4 million children living in poverty in Britain.

CUF’s research also revealed similar attitudes towards poverty between churchgoers and non-churchgoers. While 71% of clergy said large income differences are “morally wrong”, this view was shared by only 36% of regular churchgoers and the same percentage of non-churchgoers.

Similarly, only a third of clergy said they felt that nothing could be done to reduce inequality, compared to 79% of churchgoers and 75% of non-churchgoers.

The findings reflect similar trends revealed in the British Social Attitudes report last week, which showed that British society is becoming less sympathetic towards people in poverty and more likely to blame it on laziness.

CUF said there was a need for awareness-raising and public discussion about the extent of poverty in Britain.

It is planning a free resource for Lent highlighting the personal stories of people in poverty in a bid to help congregations better understand some of the causes.

Tim Bassett, CUF chief executive, said he found the statistics “shocking”.

“There is a clear need for churches to be better informed about the human impact of poverty in this country, and at Church Urban Fund we are committed to resourcing churches and church leaders to do this,” he said.

“Our hope and vision is that every church, in every community, will get involved in tackling poverty in this country, but for this to happen there needs to be much greater awareness of what it means to be poor.”


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