Giving your local work a national voice

Amanda BickertonChurch Action on Poverty has just appointed Amanda Bickerton as our National Community Link Worker. This is a new role, and Amanda will focus on supporting the great work being done by our partners, groups and supporters. We asked Amanda to introduce herself…

I will be travelling to build and strengthen partnerships, forging links between local people and national campaigning work. I am meeting with our local Church Action on Poverty groups across the country to say hello, and explore the ways in which we can all work together, share experiences and inform national campaigning.

I recently travelled to Salisbury for the local hearing of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry on Food Poverty. As I walked from the station in Salisbury, the contrast between my home city in the North and a small, historic city in a largely rural county was stark. Walking along the riverside, with rambling, honey-stoned buildings slumbering in the sunshine, and the great medieval cathedral soaring over the meadows, the air of prosperity and security was palpable.

Appearances are deceptive. Most of Wiltshire is more affluent than most of the UK, yet one of the central neighbourhoods in Salisbury is among the 10% most deprived nationally. I remembered a comment by a friend who lived in Wiltshire for many years: “If you are going to be poor, be poor in a big city.” What did she mean? In big cities, there are higher levels of deprivation, poverty and disadvantage. Salisbury is a charming medieval city in beautiful countryside: a distillation of the English idyll, surely? I imagined the reality of living in poverty there. In my neighbourhood, most people live in poverty, but there is greater access to services and peer support networks: everyone is in the same boat in an area where the average annual income is less than £20,000.

In an affluent, picture-postcard place like Salisbury, where a quarter of the population earn more than £50,000 and the average income is nearly £30,000, most people are unaware that poverty exists in their area, and those who are in poverty are invisible, isolated and ‘other’. There are fewer services, housing is expensive and scarce, public transport is infrequent and expensive, and jobs are limited in number and tend to be in low-paid sectors. Poverty in urban and rural areas shares the struggle to make ends meet: it is very different in the extent to which the experience is one of loneliness, isolation and stigma.

We are encouraging all of our supporters and partners to explore their and their communities’ aspirations for a better world by having ‘Good Society’ conversations. To find out more, see page 14

We are looking forward, aiming to build on our work with local groups and partnerships across the UK, amplifying the voices of grass-roots communities living in poverty and bringing churches, groups and communities together in a wider movement for change.

We would love to hear from you, and look at ways in which we can all work together to build a ‘Good Society’.

I am looking forward to working with you all, our supporters and campaigners and partners, to give local people a national voice.

Link up with us!

Amanda is here to support all the great work being done in communities by our local groups, partner organisations, and anti-poverty church projects. She can connect you with others doing similar work, amplify your voice through our national campaigns, and help you get practical support and advice for your work.

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