Submitted by george.somers@… on

Sam, a curate, began his ordination training four years ago. When Child Tax Credits changed to Universal Credit, he and his family were left hundreds of pounds worse off.

In February 2024, The Rt Revd Richard Jackson, Chair of the Church of England's Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee (RACSC) and Bishop of Hereford, said that clergy families experiencing financial hardship as a result of this shift may need help from their diocese. Read the full article from Church Times.

Madeleine Davies, Senior Writer for Church Times, has highlighted a Q&A from Synod papers, that says that the estimated impact of the move to Universal Credit on stipendiary clergy is "at least £1 million per year".

With Sam and his family making tough decisions to make ends meet, they reached out to Clergy Support Trust to see what help might be available.

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Sam and his family, looking at the camera and smiling, standing in front of a trampoline in their garden.

"The system was broken and wasn't working"

"For the first year of training, it was okay. We had Child Tax Credits and a Training Bursary.

Then came year two, and and the switch over to Universal Credit, which the Church system wasn't prepared for. What you had was two systems trying to combat each other and it took them a while to fix it.

We went from a combined income of about £2,000 to £800 a month, and no one had an answer. We ended up battling it for five or six months.

We were maxing out credit cards we could never afford in the first place. People in the parish bought us meals. Twice during training, we ended up using a food bank. If it weren't for the generosity of people around us, I would’ve probably had to go back to work."

"Not all clergy have savings"

"In the end, the diocese fixed it. As they looked through their records and found other clergy in receipt of Universal Credit, they saw the same decline in money.

They worked out a way to stop adjusting against it, by paying a set amount and letting Universal Credit do the adjustments.

I think it was quite evident that the training system and the finance system was set up for people in a certain position. But not all clergy come from money. Not all clergy have houses and savings."

"Clergy Support Trust rescued us"

"It was a bit of a roller coaster. We had quite a lot of debt. We had to get credit cards to pay bills and to do shopping.

The credit we were awarded was very high interest, but the training money was enough to pay the minimum payment... But how can you pay the minimum payment each month, and still owe more the next month? I don't know. It was frustrating.

Through Clergy Support Trust, we found out about the Churches Mutual Credit Union, who helped us out with consolidating the debt to clear it all away.

The trouble is that it's never just one thing you have to deal with, is it? When I came to the Trust for help, not only had we missed a whole month's money, but the family car had packed up as well, and that had over a £1,000 repair bill. Clergy Support Trust rescued us."

In the past two years, we have provided over £128,000 in grants to support Anglican clergy and their families facing debt problems. We're only able to walk alongside clergy struggling with debt thanks to the help of our partners, the Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) and StepChange Debt Charity.

 

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