How has austerity affected Christian engagement with poverty? Church Action on Poverty is partnering in a major new research project to explore this question. Research Associate Dr Stephanie Denning introduces the project.
What does austerity mean to you? Does it conjure images of the government and economic policy making? Or perhaps the impact that austerity has had in your life? Austerity has affected each of us differently but it is very much about people’s lived experiences as well as economic policy making. ‘Life on the Breadline’ is a new research project analysing how austerity has affected Christian engagement with poverty in the UK since the 2008 financial crisis.
To start the project, artist Beth Waters drew five images to illustrate different aspects of people’s experiences of poverty:
The project team brings together expertise in theology and social science, and aims to engage with people’s everyday experiences of responding to austerity across different Christian traditions. This is the first evidence-led academic theological analysis of the impact that austerity has had on Christian engagement with poverty.
What difference will the project make to poverty and austerity?
By the end of the three years of the project, it will have informed government policy making and helped to develop more effective faith-based activism. Although Prime Minister May announced in September 2018 that austerity was ending, its effects will be seen for years to come.
The project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, has Church Action on Poverty as a project partner and has three main elements:
- A series of original ethnographic case studies in Birmingham, London and Manchester
- A wide-ranging survey of national church leaders
- Interviews with local church leaders and activists from a range of Christian traditions
Since the project started in September 2018 the project team has been gathering literature – academic, church and policy related – on austerity and developed an austerity timeline, available on the resources section of the project website. The austerity timeline was added to by participants at the National Poverty Consultation in November with Church Action on Poverty, and is a resource that we will develop over time. You can also listen to the project team’s workshop at the National Poverty Consultation. The timeline recognises that for some people austerity has been a slow, trickle down process. In time, the team hope to add to the timeline people’s everyday experiences of austerity from the project case studies. If you have further suggestions for the timeline, email Stephanie.
Other highlights since the project started include submitting evidence to the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, whose report in November highlighted the political nature of austerity and the choices being made in pursuing austerity policies. The project has been featured in the Church Times and on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme alongside Church Action on Poverty.
Stay in touch with ‘Life on the Breadline’ for the latest project updates and forthcoming events including the project’s mid-term conference.: