Churches in the United Kingdom are calling on the Government to cancel the debt of people who have fallen into hardship after months of coronavirus restrictions.
This call is been made under an initiative “Reset the Debt”, a campaign driven by a joint initiative of
- The Baptist Union of Great Britain
- Church Action on Poverty
- The Church of Scotland
- The Methodist Church, and
- The United Reformed Church
Some estimated six million people in the UK have fallen behind on rent, council tax and other household bills because of the pandemic, while one in five people have borrowed to buy essentials like food.
“low income families, younger workers, members of BAME communities, and carers have been especially hard hit by job losses and the economic climate’ the coalition says
The Rev Richard Teal, President of the Methodist Conference, said the cancellation of unavoidable debt could “bring stability” and offer a “more hopeful future” for the millions of people in the UK struggling to cover the cost of basic necessities.
He said that those on low incomes
“cannot be forgotten as we move into what will be a challenging winter ahead”.
“This call comes out of what churches have seen in communities throughout the country,” he said.
“We know that during lockdown people have focused on keeping themselves and their families safe and fed – and for many that meant bills or even some rent had to go unpaid.
“These families are now facing a crisis and this is simply not right.
“The fact that Covid debt has disproportionately affected low income families demands a compassionate and just response.”
The campaign has been inspired by the Old Testament concept of Jubilee and the forgiveness of debts.
Rachel Lampard, Team Leader of the Joint Public Issues Team for the four Churches, said: “As Christians, we see Jubilee as being about more than just economics.
“The Jubilee principle allows relationships to be reset, communities to be re-balanced, and people’s dignity to be restored. This is the well-being that God desires for all people.
“That is why we are asking the Chancellor for a Jubilee Fund to pay and cancel the debts of people who have been swept into debt by Covid-19.
“Covid-19 has shown us that we are all far more reliant on each other than we had previously acknowledged.
Yet those we have come to rely on for our essentials are often those who have been hit hardest by lockdown debt.
“Without a debt Jubilee, those who are least able to bear it will continue to carry the heaviest financial burden long into the future.”
Rev Dave Warnock recently opened a debt counselling service in one of the five churches he is responsible for in the Wythenshawe area of south Manchester.