Page last updated at 01:55 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 02:55 UK

Call for action to help UK's poor

Oxfam says the government should raise the income of the poorest people

Oxfam says life for the fifth of the UK's population living in poverty is set to worsen because of the recession.

In a report, Close to Home - UK Poverty and the Economic Downturn, it calls on the government to help the poor.

It contains a six-point rescue plan including reducing taxes for people on low incomes and raising their benefits.

The Department for Work and Pensions said people were having a tough time finding work and it was investing £2bn to support those in need.

An Oxfam poll shows just 4% of adults think the government has done enough to help those who have lost their jobs.

The charity says the UK is becoming a nation of "Freds," a concept it has created to sum up the plight of people it says are forgotten, ripped off, excluded and debt-ridden.

Recession impact

The YouGov poll of 1,971 adults revealed 75% of people say they, or someone they know, has had their working life negatively affected by the recession.

A further 70% of people said the government had not done enough to help ordinary people so far during the recession.

And 76% of those surveyed did not think the job seekers' allowance was enough to live on.

The Oxfam report says the government's most active work has been in helping the financial sector, but the effects of the crisis are being increasingly felt by ordinary people.

Forgotten by those in power
Ripped-off by taxes and the benefits system
Excluded from opportunities
Debt-ridden because they can't afford to get by

"The UK needs a broad-based "people's bail-out" focusing on human and social capital as well as financial assets," the report says.

This would include cutting taxes for people on low incomes and raising benefits so that everyone, in and out of work, has a basic income that is enough to live on.

The charity says in the long-term the recession presents an opportunity to make a change, laying the basis for a more equal, fairer society.

'Bold action'

The government defines poverty as having an income of 60% or less of the median - on this basis 13.2 million people in the UK live in poverty, 22% of the population.

Antonia Bance, Oxfam's deputy director of UK poverty, said: "We created the Fred concept after speaking to people who have been suffering from the effects of the financial crisis. Bold action needs to be taken by the government to prevent a major rise in poverty here in the UK.

"Now, more than ever, it can't be business as usual in the UK. The government must help people living below the poverty line as well as the growing number at risk of poverty in the Budget on 22 April."

The Department for Work and Pensions said it knew people were having a tough time finding work and was investing £2bn to support those in need.

A spokesman said: "On Monday we brought in extra help for people from day one of unemployment, including professionals, along with a new package of support for jobseekers who have been claiming for six months.

'We have just increased jobseekers' allowance by 6.3%, but it's important to remember this is just one part of a comprehensive safety net that includes help with rent, mortgage interest payments, council tax payments and tax credits for people in need. Further help is also available for parents, carers and those on low income."

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