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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Publication details for Dr Andrew Orton

Barclay, D. & Orton, A. (2018). Money Talks: Christian Responses to Debt in the North East and London. School of Applied Social Sciences. Durham, Durham University.

Author(s) from Durham


Debt has become increasingly significant in the UK over the last decade as a high profile issue which is having
profound personal, social, economic and political consequences. This significance can be seen in the attention
being paid to increasing levels of individual debt, and related figures for those encountering difficulties with
repayments. For example, 371,000 people per quarter are being supported by Citizens’ Advice Bureaux with
debt-related issues and the one person every five minutes and twenty eight seconds is being declared insolvent
or bankrupt.1
This significance can also be seen in terms of an increased political focus on the national debt
and deficit levels, and the impact of debt on the international financial system. Within this context, there has
been substantial debate about broader issues of financial inclusion and services, particularly as these affect
those in poverty, including debates over the regulation of parts of this market including forms of high cost,
short term (‘payday’) lending. The role of faith-based responses to these issues has played an important role
within these wider debates.2
This report considers the findings from research into Christian responses to these issues, in a context where
many churches are engaged in everyday work with those experiencing debt in local communities alongside
broader work tackling poverty. This local work by churches has been further supported and given public profile
through interventions by religious leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the work of several
national Christian charities in organising responses, developing a supportive infrastructure, and campaigning
on these issues. These interventions are taking place in a wider social contexts where the impact of religious
faith in the public sphere (including through social action) is highly contested.
Research to further explore Christian responses to debt in this context offered a significant opportunity to
consider how such work is developing and how the Christian faith is shaping the responses that are being
developed. The Leech Research Fellowship therefore agreed to fund research in this field as part of its broader
work to carry out research projects engaging with churches that will “nourish Christian hope and have impact
in the North East”.