Power to change: our hopes for the 2020s

How can we unlock our shared potential in the 2020s?

What do you want to do with the next 522 weeks? And how can we all help?

That’s what you might ask yourself as we embark on another new decade.

You may have made New Year’s resolutions already, but let’s look further. Ten years. 120 months. 522 weeks. 3,653 days.

That’s plenty of time for us to aim high and think big. To challenge those people or systems that need to be challenged, and set about changing what needs to change.

So, what change would you like to see in your community before the 2020s end? And how do we get there?

We’ve been asking those questions in the past few weeks and one of the most moving responses was from Charlie, a food bank volunteer in Sheffield, who was approached by a six-year-old boy in town one day.

She couldn’t place him at first, but the boy threw his arms around her and said: “You do know me miss – you give my mummy food so I can have my tea.”

Her hope for the 2020s was simple: “I don’t want that young man, when he is 16 or 17, having to come to a food bank for food.”

At that same project in Sheffield, we spoke to Nick, a methodist minister. He captured a theme that others also touched on: community.

Nick wants stronger connections within his local area and within society more widely, and wants a new realisation of people’s interdependency – that his welfare is intertwined with mine, and with yours, and with the next person’s, and so on.

“We need hope for the future and we need a good sensible vision that is about interdependency, compassion and empathy,” he says. “If I was looking for a starting point, it would be to start trying to be in conversations with each other. Try to be in conversations, even the difficult conversations with people we don’t agree with at this stage… Let’s stop seeing ourselves as simply individuals; let’s start to re-envisage and reimagine and take part in that sense of being community together.”

Here’s Nick’s message in full:

We spoke also to people in York.

Paddy, who works at Restore York, which provides homes for people who have been homeless, says: “We’d like society to accept people who are homeless and not judge them, but also know how to help people. We’d love to improve community, for people to be able to go to the people around them and be supported.”

Here’s his message in full:

Sydnie and Mary, who chair the York Food Poverty Alliance, hope for an end to hunger and for improvements to child care, freeing parents to contribute more fully to society and their child’s welfare, without becoming trapped in poverty. “It should be put into law that everyone should be entitled to healthy nutritious food no matter who they are and their situation,” says Sydnie. (The UK signed up to international agreements on the right to food in the 1970s, and subsequently, but has never enshrined that right into domestic law, and there are growing calls for this to be remedied).

They also want the country to develop a system that provides more support for parents, alleviating childcare costs, to unlock poverty for families and enable parents and children to pay a fuller part in society.

In Halifax, Martin wants the country to listen more sincerely and consistently to people in poverty. Society right now fails to capture the insights, expertise and experience of people who are often most impacted by economic decisions, and allowing people to be swept further to the margins.

Martin says: “Straight away I want to see better organisation of Universal Credit and other benefits, so they do not pull you into debt. They could do that by cutting the waiting times for people starting or changing benefits, and also by bringing back more support at job centres to support people with courses or to get qualifications.

“I would also like governments to start listening to people like ourselves over the next ten years. And I would like to see us building communities more and I think churches are important there; they need to be open and welcoming to people and advertise that they are open to people. People are getting into difficult situations and into debt and I think over time it would be nice to see communities building up so that they and the churches are really finding people and reaching out to them, rather than the other way round.”

What are your aims and hopes for the 2020s, and what needs to shift to make that change possible? email gavin@church-poverty.org.uk

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