Oxfam in the news over Below the Breadline

The publication on 9 June of our Below the Breadline report - in partnership with Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust - generated a great deal of media attention, and it's important for us to share our account of events and what we set out to achieve with this activity.

We are committed to tackling poverty and hunger wherever they exist, from remote villages in Nepal or the conflict zones of South Sudan to the communities where people are struggling to make ends meet, right here in the UK. For some, poverty has brought them to the very edge of life. For others, the deep unhappiness and indignity of hardship denies them their right to a safe, healthy and fulfilling life. Wherever they are, we believe in helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in any country, and we know that to our supporters, it's important that "charity begins at home".

Poverty in the UK is very real and deeply painful, and we think it's vital to help.Poverty in the UK is very real and deeply painful, and we think it's vital to help. That is why we published our Below the Breadline report on 9 June, which we timed to coincide with Channel 4's Dispatches programme "Breadline Kids" - on which we were consulted. The report highlights the struggles of people who can't afford to feed their families because of rising prices, low incomes and welfare cuts, and we promoted its release with a week of posts on Facebook and Twitter to create more interest.

One tweet linked to a Facebook post featuring a graphic in poster-style, speaking of a "perfect storm" caused by "zero hours contracts, high prices, benefit cuts, unemployment and childcare costs". The tweet was not part of an advertising campaign or series of billboard posters as has been reported in some places. There was no paid media activity to promote it. It was a single tweet intended to highlight the underlying factors that are forcing people below the breadline.

However, this particular tweet was picked up by the media and a complaint was made to the Charity Commission with the allegation that our campaign was "overtly political and aimed at the policies of the current government". Subsequently, many other organisations then offered welcome public support for our mandate to campaign in this way.

Oxfam has never been, and will never be a party political organisation. Our mission is to work with others to overcome poverty and suffering, and sometimes, that involves criticising government policies, in the UK or elsewhere, if those policies are failing poor people. So we know that successive governments have failed to stem growing inequality in the UK. Our welfare system isn't providing an adequate safety net, either - that's why an increasing number of people are having to turn to food banks. Over 20 million meals were provided by food banks and similar services last year, to people who can't afford to feed themselves and their families.

The Charity Commission is clear that campaigning by charities is legitimate as long as it is not partisan and it supports the charity's underlying mission, so for us to bring attention to this outrage is not a party political stance. It's why we exist. We believe politicians of all stripes should be prioritising this situation, and we look forward to hearing from all parties about their plans for tackling this crisis. We don't seek unnecessary confrontations with politicians, far from it. We have fully recognised the present government for delivering the UK's aid promise, and William Hague for his long-running campaign to put an end to sexual violence in conflict.

Oxfam supporters come from across the political spectrum - helping to tackle poverty and injustice isn't a matter of left or right but of right and wrong.

When the scale of the problem we face demands it, we would be failing in our mission if we shied away from boldly stating the facts as we see them and pushing politicians of all parties to go further than they might otherwise.

Read the Below the Breadline report 

Related links