Co-written with Andrew Dorsey

Last month, as the school holidays began, children and teachers breathed a sigh of relief. But at one school in Birkenhead, even as the bells rang to mark the end of term, staff were gluing children’s shoes together.

They were trying to save parents the added expense of buying new pairs for their children over the holidays, knowing full well that every pound spent on shoes would result in shrinking food budgets for families who, during term time, rely on the lifeline of free school meals.

This is just one of the innumerable examples of modern British poverty. The past decade has seen a growth in destitution that is unprecedented in the post-war era. When William Beveridge wrote his famous report in 1942, he said that the “abolition of want” was possible through a national welfare state and full employment.

But today poverty has returned with such vengeance that large numbers of people are going hungry, not knowing where their next meal will come from, while they are also on the verge of homelessness and unable to pay their utility bills. Destitution now hangs like the sword of Damocles over the lives of the poor.

If Christians aren’t disturbed by this, no group of the population will be. Indeed, Christians have often been at the forefront of responding to the new destitution.

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