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Life on the Breadline: Christianity, Poverty and Politics in the 21st  Century city

Life on the Breadline: Christianity, Poverty and Politics in the 21st Century city



Economic and Social Research Council



Project team

Project overview

The aim of the ‘Life on the Breadline…’ project is to understand how the social context resulting from the 'age of austerity' has affected Christian engagement with poverty in the UK and the theological motivations, which underpin it, in order to facilitate the development of better informed government policy and more effective faith-based activism thereby reducing urban social exclusion and inequality. The project will - 

  1. Develop a greater understanding of the impact that the 'age of austerity' has had on Christian engagement with poverty.
  2. Forge a theological analysis of contemporary urban poverty and faith-based activism.
  3. Identify the institutional challenges that the 'age of austerity' poses for Church strategy 
  4. Aid the further development of Christian engagement with social exclusion. 
  5. Enhance policy-makers' understanding of Christian engagement with poverty and enable the development of better informed government social policy

Impact statement

In 2017 more than 1,300,000 people in the UK relied on foodbanks to feed their families and more than 30% of British children were living below the poverty line. In spite of this, our 3 year urban theology project (2018-2021) represents the first evidence-led academic theological analysis of the impact that the ‘age of austerity’ has had on the Christian engagement with urban poverty. The project will develop a series of original ethnographic case studies in Birmingham, London and Manchester, commission a wide-ranging survey of national church leaders and interview local church leaders and activists from a range of Christian traditions. It is anticipated that the data generated during fieldwork will enable the development of a new liberative theology of urban poverty and a range of public-facing resources and tools aimed at faith groups and policymakers. The project will generate significant impact within the academy, amongst faith groups, faith-based NGOs and policymakers. Project outputs will include –

  • Peer reviewed journal articles
  • A co-written book
  • The development of a National Poverty Consultation
  • A series of short films
  • A major photographic exhibition
  • An end of project conference
  • A policymakers report
  • A church leaders report
  • Continuing Professional Development for policymakers and church leaders
  • A project MOOC
  • A ‘Faith & Civic Engagement’ research portal.
  • A Faith, Poverty and Activism Network
  • Public engagement activities and events


The project findings will be published via a range of different outputs, including a 'Report for Policymakes in the UK' and 'A Report for Church Leaders in the UK' (both reports are available for download below). Other resources are available on the Resources Section of the Life on the Breadline website.

Report for Policymakers Report for Church Leaders
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