This church listens to us – so should the politicians
We visited the Parson Cross Initiative at Mount Tabor Church in Sheffield one Friday morning, and spoke to eight people who have had cause to use the centre’s food bank. Richard says the church makes people feel like family, says politicians should listen more and says sanctions only trap people like him into food poverty.
I used to be on Employment and Support Allowance, but I couldn’t make an appointment and they sanctioned me. I went to my GP in October and she gave me a sick note for my depression until January. But they [DWP] sent me a letter to go to an assessment, and I missed it. Then, in November, I got attacked by a dog on my arm, and I had to get a skin graft from my leg. I cannot lift my arm to my mouth now without pain.
The appointments are in the city-centre and I cannot walk there on my own now, because if I even see a dog I’m just gone, I just want to jump over a wall or something.
The first sanction was because I didn’t turn up. I said I couldn’t get there and that was because of alcohol misuse by me but after that they didn’t listen to my doctor’s note. I got a new note from the consultant but they will not listen.
I’ve been coming to places like this and getting help from family and friends as well. I’ve no idea when I will get any money again. I’ve been sleeping in the park at times and I’m just to-ing and fro-ing now, sofa-surfing. For me not to need this place, I would have needed them not to have sanctioned me. A regular income would have meant I could have sorted myself out.
They’re brilliant here though. You are not judged here, you’re made to feel like family. I’m 50 now but I used to come to this church when I was a child, then when I was 18, 19, 20 they used to have an unemployment group in the back room where you had a snooker table and pool table and table-tennis and stuff like that.
It’s good to see churches do stuff like this; that’s what they should do. I’ve not got a clue about politics but nothing changes for us. They should stop sanctioning people. The church here listens to us but politicians do not. They need to listen. It seems this country is not for us any more.
The bigger picture
Richard was one of eight people we spoke to on a recent visit to the Parson Cross Initiative, which works with community groups and churches in its part of Sheffield to help meet local needs. The project grew from, and is based at, Mount Tabor Methodist Church. You can read the other stories here:
What would it mean for your church, or for the church as a whole, to become a church of the poor? We researched this in 2016, and published this report.
We believe in a society where everybody has access to good food and where nobody need go to bed hungry, but that cannot be left to charities and community groups alone. The campaign sets out nine potential Government policies, all of which would help to reduce hunger and poverty, all of which are based on the real experiences of people like Tina. Please take a few moments to look at those nine ideas, to contact local groups working to alleviate poverty in your area, and to speak to your MP to ask them to help end hunger.