18 November 2023

Social justice: Stand up for people in need

Chris Hartley

A photo shows someone opening an empty wallet.

As youth poverty increases, Chris Hartley reminds us that we should never accept the inequalities in our society.

For many young people today, poverty is a part of life. This is due to a number of intersecting factors, including a fall in real disposable income, large increases in rental costs and homelessness, and lower benefits for those under 25. The results of this are set out starkly in a new report by the Open Data Institute, which found that 20 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are living in poverty. Even many of those who are working or accessing benefits continue to struggle, with Citizens Advice finding a worrying cycle of growing debt, deteriorating physical and mental health and destitution among under-25s claiming universal credit.

There has also been a concerning growth in the number of 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs). According to the Learning and Work Institute, this group has increased by 23 per cent in the past two years, equating to 12.5 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK.

The discrepancies in how benefits and support structures are provided to young people, along with longstanding – but growing – issues with economic barriers such as employment, caring responsibilities or ill health, are likely to lead to a growing number of 16 to 24-year-olds struggling to afford essentials. This will have an inevitable impact on themselves, their families and their communities.

Despite technological and social progress in modern society, the truth is that there are still children going hungry, vulnerable people experiencing homelessness and thousands desperate for work in towns and cities.

Since its early days, The Salvation Army has fed, clothed and been a voice for the poor – this has been at the heart of the Army’s mission because this was embodied in Jesus’ life and teachings. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew that God calls us to help those in need.

The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone, whether through unexpected bill rises or the growing cost of feeding ourselves. Nonetheless, there are many ways in which we as Christians can still help people in need, whether that’s through volunteering at your corps food bank, supporting an existing one in your area, providing a warm welcome space at your hall, or by taking up the cause with politicians. Joining the Army’s Social Justice Champion network can help you raise awareness of, and tackle, social injustices in your community, with the Campaigns Team providing support and resources to help you engage with your locally elected representatives.

Proverbs 19:17 says: ‘Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed’ (English Standard Version). How are you living out your faith by standing with the most vulnerable in your community?

Reflect and respond

Written by

Chris Hartley

Chris Hartley

Public Affairs Officer, Public Affairs Unit

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