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03 June 2015

New research shows disability and poverty link

New research shows disability and poverty link

What are the causes of poverty? What poverty issues do Evangelical Christians care about? Are they and their churches personally responding to the realities of poverty both at home and abroad? These are just some of the questions Good news for the poor?, the latest research report in our 21st Century Evangelicals series, explores.

Among the many statistics that have emerged from the report, 62 per cent of participants said they think that caring responsibilities, personal disability or poor health is one of the top five causes of poverty in the UK.

Only nine per cent of respondents think the Government understands the needs of people who are carers for their family members and that they offer adequate help. In addition, 66 per cent think welfare reforms are having a negative impact on people who are disabled or sick.

The survey of more than 1,600 evangelicals found that many are directly involved in tackling poverty;donating to food banks, volunteering with poverty projects or supporting people they know who are struggling financially.

Alliance member organisation and research partner Prospects is encouraged to see many churches across the country working together to address the needs of disabled people who are often in poverty and to see them acknowledging the very real problems disabled people and carers face. But they stress the need for more volunteers.

Gordon Gill of Prospects says: "One of the underlying causes of poverty when families are affected by learning disabilities is that due to the often 24 hour care needs of an individual one, sometimes both;parent(s) have to leave full time employment in order to care for their child and this is lifetime provision of care.

"Sometimes parents stagger their working hours/days with part time jobs often taking low paid menial posts simply because of the fatigue experienced in caring for a child and into adulthood. The issue does not go away."

Men Cap charity estimates there are 29,000 people with severe learning disabilities living with parents as carers who themselves are over the age of 70. Prospects provides loving caring Christian homes for the time when parents are no longer able to care for a child.

A couple who typically might have children late in life around their 40s would mean as their disabled child entered their 20s their parents would be in their 60s. As the child often outgrows a parent in size and weight, the physical demands combined with frailty of a parent made home care particularly difficult. 

Gordon continues: "We believe this is a ticking time bomb. What would help many parents is a programme or benefits system that recognises the value of parent carers and pays them for the care work they provide. Many parents need respite, time for themselves to refresh."

"This is where volunteers can be enormous help, even giving Christian parents the opportunity to follow their faith without having to provide care at the same time."

Prospects ministry teams trains volunteers in churches to work with adults with learning disabilities teaching the gospel in an accessible way and leads parallel special needs celebrations at events such as Spring Harvest to allow parents to recharge their own batteries.

Prospects have around 1500 trained volunteers in their church based networks.