THE idea that life for hard pressed people in Ludlow is easing has been dismissed by church leaders in the town.
Reverend Neil Richardson, who was once one of the most senior Methodists ministers in the country and is a current leader of the ecumenical group Churches Together around Ludlow (CTL), says things are getting worse.
He says the nature of poverty is changing with the unemployed being joined by an army of ‘working poor.’
“There are rising levels of need and diminishing resources to meet those needs,” said Rev Richardson.
He accused the Government of failing to understand what is happening in communities like Ludlow and that voluntary and charitable work will not be able to fill the gap left as the state pulls away from social welfare.
“The government is unrealistic about the consequences and I do not think that volunteers will be able to meet the shortfall when all of the cuts have come through,” he said.
CTL is providing a number of initiatives to help those in dire need including issuing food parcels to people who cannot feed themselves.
It has also started a scheme where volunteers work with individuals and families to help them make sure money goes as far as possible and they can prepare healthy food.
But more volunteers are needed to help with many aspects of the work.
“We are told that we are all in this together but it is the poor that are bearing the burden of the reforms and sometimes in an unacceptable way,” said Rev Richardson.
“I do not believe that the level of welfare dependency is as big as it is believed. There are a lot of people that cannot manage on low wages.”
The minister said the large number of people who are self employed but struggling or on zero hours contracts, and therefore did not appear in the unemployment figures, masked the scale of the problem.
He said CTL also want Shropshire Council to make sure that every penny provided for crisis support is spent and that nothing is returned to central Government.
CTL has been trying to meet the council to discuss how the authority is using money allocated for people in desperate need.
The council has defended its decision to spend £20,000 on a website from a pot provided by central Government from the ‘Local Support and Prevention Fund’, which replaced community grants and crisis loans.
It says the website will help provide information that will assist individuals and families to get themselves out of poverty.
But CTL argues that while it welcomes initiatives to help people with long term strategies to escape from poverty there is a requirement to help people in immediate pressing need.
The Rev said CTL is not party political but has a duty to support the poor.