The audience at last week’s Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) annual conference heard how the sector must now present reuse solutions to local authorities, with social profit at its heart; and demand that Government policies and programmes join up more sensibly.
By improving departmental connectivity between waste and welfare issues, local authority cost-efficiencies, better waste prevention and improvement of the alleviation of poverty will be guaranteed.
The main message from the two days was to demand greater acknowledgement of the sector’s work to ensure the benefits are increased, maintained and strengthened. The energy and passion of the sector to act was apparent to all present.
In his keynote address to the FRN Conference, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP stated that the reuse sector “is a proper lifeline for many people” and supporting the sector’s work is “common sense”. In addition he made the assertion that the social economy re-use sector is far too polite and must now demand that Local Authorities work with the re-use sector to “take the weight off the state”.
Inspired by the conference, the sector is now fired up to demand access to more of the unwanted furniture and electrical items in the UK waste stream, and ensure that they can be supplied to the low income and struggling families that need them. Craig Anderson, the CEO of FRN said in his preamble before the keynote address that “FRN members need to offer strong leadership, to transform the sector – to be One Sector, One Voice – one that can provide a coordinated response capable of campaigning for joined up policy in terms of society, the economy and the environment in their local areas.”
Demand aside, it is simple common-sense to re-use, particularly as local authority budgets are squeezed ever harder. Sir Stephen Bubb of ACEVO stated that with public sector cuts there are opportunities for Local Authorities looking for “more for less” and that they must recognise the added value of the sector’s work. Echoing the conference theme, Sir Stephen said that “networks are Stronger Together” and said that “re-users are Third Sector leaders and FRN is an exemplar of professional leadership”, and he called on FRN and its members to draw the attention of politicians to the issues on the ground.
Local Authority Waste Departments are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per year on collecting and disposing of bulky waste – on average 30% is reusable – and some Local Authority Revenue & Benefits Departments are spending crisis funds on purchasing new essential goods to help people in crisis.
This is far too much waste on a number of unacceptable levels.
The FRN is made up of hundreds of highly adaptable, flexible and welfare-focused organisations offering practical, on-the-ground environmental, social and economic solutions. We will be louder, more demanding but ultimately Stronger Together.
10 million items of furniture are thrown away in the UK every year. 3 million of these items could be easily re‐used; more could be repaired.
The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) celebrated its 25th anniversary at its annual conference for furniture re-use organisation members on 13th & 14th March 2014.
The FRN leads and represents over 300 furniture and electrical re-use charities across the UK. Our aim and that of our members is to alleviate material poverty, through the provision of low-cost or free household goods. On average each year, our sector helps over 950,000 households across the whole of the UK. In 2012/13 the FRN network reused 2.7millions items of furniture and electrical equipment. This equates to 110,000 tonnes of waste prevented and saves low income families across the UK in the order of around £350 million.
Essential household goods include something to sleep on; something to cook on and something to sit on.
By working with the re-use sector, local authorities and waste management companies can achieve and record significant social value impacts such as poverty alleviation of low income households; number of volunteering, training and employment hours, as well as tonnage diverted from landfill.
The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 is intended to integrate social value into public sector contracts. Full incorporation of social value into public services seems patchy and a long way off but it’s clear that working with our sector makes moral and business sense, and would be a very quick win for all concerned.
For any local authority wanting to chat about preventing waste going to landfill through reuse, reducing costs and achieving excellent social value impacts contact:
or visit the FRN website at http://www.frn.org.uk