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Emergency Use Only: Understanding and reducing the use of food banks in the UK

November 17, 2014

The use of emergency food aid in the UK, particularly in the form of food banks, has dramatically increased over the last decade. Research was jointly conducted by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the Church of England and The Trussell Trust to examine why people are turning to food banks, how food bank use fits with their wider coping strategies, and what might be done to reduce the need that leads to food bank use.Interviews with clients at seven food banks across the UK revealed that the acute crisis that leads people to turn to food banks is often set against a background of complex, difficult lives. Experiences included ill health, bereavement, relationship breakdown, heavy caring responsibilities or job loss, as well as constantly low income. The report shows that action is needed to ensure that the safety net provided by the social security system is vital. It can help prevent life shocks becoming crises, and offer vital protection for vulnerable people.This report points to practical, measured changes in policy and practice that will help to reduce the need for food banks, and ensure vital support for people in times of crisis.

The Perfect Storm: Economic stagnation, the rising cost of living, public spending cuts, and the impact on UK poverty

June 12, 2012

The combination in the UK of economic stagnation and public spending cuts is causing substantial hardship to people living in poverty. This amounts to a 'Perfect Storm' of falling incomes, rising prices, public service cuts, benefit cuts, a housing crisis, and weak labour rights. By making different political choices, the government can both protect people in poverty and help to stimulate economic recovery in the short term, and set the UK on the way towards economic, social and environmental sustainability in the long term.

Community Assets First: The implications of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach for the Coalition agenda

October 13, 2011

The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) is an analytical model that seeks to build on the existing assets and strategies that people living in poverty use to support themselves, and then to identify what needs to change in order for their livelihoods to become more secure and sustainable. The SLA takes as its starting point not deprivation but assets: the strengths and capabilities of people living in poverty, and the strategies they use, through drawing on these different assets, to 'get by'.Since 2005, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty have been working with local partners to pilot the approach with people living in different low-income communities across the UK. Based on this experience, the authors - IPPR North, Urban Forum, Oxfam, and Church Action on Poverty - explore the benefits of taking a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach to public policy aspects such as welfare reform, job creation, housing and provision of local services and urge policy-makers, researchers and practitioners to use the SLA in designing anti-poverty work.

Close to Home : UK poverty and the economic downturn

October 29, 2010

The UK is in recession, and things stand to get much worse for the fifth of the population already living in poverty, and for the millions more whose livelihoods will become more vulnerable as a result. The UK government has recognised its responsibility to help people through the recession, but needs to do more to help the poorest, and to provide security for all. As importantly, policy makers need to take the opportunity that the recession provides to rethink many of the policies of the past decades. This paper sets out a pro-poor policy response to the recession that lays down the foundations for a more equitable, sustainable society. It argues that government action should be based upon a long-term vision of moving to a society based on sustainability, with good quality jobs that allow people to have a more secure livelihood, but also backed up by a welfare state safety net which neither traps people nor leaves them living in poverty.

Struggling With The System: The case for UK welfare reform

October 29, 2010

The benefits system is an essential part of the social protection Britain has built to protect its citizens and to end poverty in the UK. At the moment, the system simply isn't achieving this aim. Oxfam is calling for reform of out-of-work benefits to ensure they provide adequate protection for those people who need them, and to help people take up paid work if they are able to. To do this, the system needs to be more flexible, allowing people to take on some paid or voluntary work without losing benefits; it must also respond to the particular circumstances of individuals, taking into account, for instance, their caring responsibilities or the social support they rely on in their everyday lives. The government plans to reform the welfare system in the UK. Oxfam is calling for reform based on the principles and recommendations set out in this paper, to ensure that the benefits system becomes a truly effective tool for tackling poverty in the UK.