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.