General Election 2024: Our Letter to Political Leaders


Open letter to political leaders – by Elizabeth Palmer

Dear Political Leaders,

As the CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society, a Catholic charity dedicated to serving the most vulnerable in our society for over 180 years, I write to you with a heavy heart but a hopeful spirit, seeking your commitment to addressing the pressing issue of poverty with the urgency and compassion it demands.

Poverty is not merely a political issue; it is a profound human issue that transcends party lines and ideological divides. It is the stark reality for millions of individuals and families who struggle daily to secure their most basic needs—food, shelter, and a sense of belonging. In a nation as wealthy and prosperous as the United Kingdom, it is unconscionable that so many are left wanting.

Food poverty, in particular, has reached alarming levels. What were once temporary measures—food banks—have now become a long-term coping mechanism for many families. This situation is neither sustainable nor acceptable. In our 180 years of service, deeply rooted in the community, we have seen the demand for help rise to unprecedented levels. In the last two years, we have seen a staggering 711% increase in requests for financial supportfrom our members and volunteers.

Behind these numbers are stories of profound hardship, which our 8,000-strong community of volunteers and supporters confronts every day. Children are attending school hungry, parents are skipping meals to ensure their children can eat, and elderly individuals are forced to choose between heating and eating. These are choices that no one in a just society should ever have to make.

The effects of poverty extend far beyond hunger. It breeds insecurity, erodes mental and physical health, and stifles the potential of future generations. Addressing poverty in all its forms is not merely about providing immediate relief but about breaking a cycle that perpetuates disadvantage and despair. Nor is it just about employment, in-work poverty is also a reality for many.

Urgent action is crucial to creating a society where no one is left behind. Our shared moral imperative, grounded in the principles of justice and compassion, demands that we act decisively and collaboratively.

As political leaders, you possess the power to shape policies that can transform lives and lift communities out of poverty. I urge you to place the commitment to tackle and root out poverty at the centre of your agenda. Let us build a future where every person, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to thrive.


Elizabeth Palmer  

CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society (England and Wales)