These are not simply statistics, but are potentially the lives of increasing millions of children and families. The thought of 3.69 million children in the UK living in poverty by 2030 is both shocking and tragic - especially given that the three main parties pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020.
Poverty is becoming more and more complex - it used to be the case that employment was the way out, whereas now, being in work is no guarantee of a decent enough wage to sustain a family. This puzzling contradiction could potentially be due to a combination of ‘flexible’ working contracts, where work is not guaranteed from week-to-week but the person is no longer deemed to be unemployed for the sake of statistics, and low hourly wages. The government would like to see less reliance on benefits, but this isn’t going to happen while employment for so many people is unstable.
Whatever the statistics, whether it is millions, thousands, hundreds or tens of children in poverty, Christians have to respond. Practically, this can mean temporary, short term support like running or supporting a local foodbank, or initiatives with longer term impact such as running courses on money management or cooking on a low income - we will only know what to do to meet the needs of these families by knowing our communities and building relationships.
From a children’s work perspective, acknowledging that increasing numbers of children, young people and families live in poverty means being sensitive about the cost of being part of our groups and ministries. This can mean being prepared to either investigate ways of fundraising to subsidise activities or being prepared to change our plans to make our ministries accessible to all. If siblings are part of the same groups, then the cost of participation often multiplies.
If we are followers of Jesus Christ then regardless of our politics we need to take the words of Matthew 25:34-46 seriously and to make sure that those living in poverty have their needs met not simply because it is a nice thing to do, but because to do so is to serve Christ Himself. As churches we might not be able to eradicate poverty, but we can make life easier for those that we come into contact with, least of all by ensuring that our well intentioned activities do not place even more of a burden on those whom we are trying to serve.