People living in poverty in the UK make a vital contribution to the economy and society through unpaid caring and community work. But public attitudes prevail that people on low incomes – and particularly those on benefits – are ‘scroungers’ who are to blame for their own poverty. These attitudes are exacerbated by a widespread assumption that opportunities to earn a reasonable income are readily available. This paper highlights the positive contribution made by people on low incomes, and explores the barriers that prevent many people from moving out of benefits and into employment. In doing so, Oxfam hopes to encourage positive attitudes towards people in poverty and to contribute to the creation of a climate that supports the bold policy measures needed to end UK poverty. Politicians and journalists play a key role in promoting positive attitudes, or reinforcing negative ones, of people living in poverty. Oxfam is therefore calling on politicians, commentators, and decision makers to recognise the unpaid contributions made by people on low incomes and the barriers to work and opportunity which make it difficult for some people to take up paid work, and to reflect this in their language, political activity and policy-making. Oxfam hopes that a sea change in attitudes to people living in poverty will enable the creation of policies to tackle poverty, such as those outlined below. Overall, Oxfam wants to see a society and a welfare system that gives people dignity and a decent standard of living; and which gives people security – whether they are out of work, in work, or if they find themselves moving between the two.
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