Many of the most vulnerable people living along the East London Line could see the charities they rely on unable to lend support since Oxfam announced plans to cut their UK poverty projects by 20%.
Welfare advice, refugee, and women’s charities such as Tower Hamlets Food Bank and the Fawcett Society could see funding decreased, potentially making it difficult for them to conduct research and extend support to those living below the poverty line.
Oxfam is vital to the 28% of Londoners currently living below the poverty line, with a large proportion living along the East London Line.
Denise Bentley, manager of Tower Hamlets Food Bank said: “The funding provided by Oxfam is key to our development programmes. If they [Oxfam] decide to narrow their scope to overseas and not focus on the UK then it will affect our ability to expand our programmes.”
Bentley said: “We have seen a steep increase of referrals [to the food bank], which indicates that the situation is not getting better.”
In the three years that Tower Hamlets Food Bank has been operating, the number of people using the service has doubled from around 2,500 to more than 5,000. A large proportion of those referred to the food bank are individuals that have been sanctioned or have faced delays to their benefit payments.
Some individuals have faced delays over 3 months and many come from the most vulnerable groups in society. With the introduction of Universal Credit due to take effect next year, the likelihood of individuals facing delays to their benefits will increase due to the stringent rules on sanctions.
Oxfam spent almost £2.5m on it’s UK Poverty Programme in 2012-2013 and plans to cut this to around £1.85m in 2014-2015, and, eventually, the programmes budget could be cut to as little as £400,000 in the future. Although Oxfam has said that it will ensure that procedures are in place to support the affected charities, the cuts will have a noticeable effect on their ability to support those living in poverty.
Chris Johnes, director of Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme, said: “Oxfam currently spends £2.5 million-a-year fighting poverty in the UK but we are proposing to slowly scale down our programme over three years as part of a wider global strategy shift.”
The cuts aim to reduce financial support for local grassroots poverty programmes that will free up resources to invest in influencing global policy-makers.
Johnes said: “We remain committed to tackling poverty in the UK and plan to refocus our efforts, moving from programme delivery towards pushing for policy change that will benefit a far greater number of people.”
The changes come as Oxfam announced last month that they were cutting 125 jobs in the UK and closing some regional offices. The charities’ income for 2012-2013 was £367.9m, down from £385.5m in 2011-2012, which Oxfam said was a result of a fall in donations.