In his keynote address to the FRN’s 25th Anniversary annual conference (March 2014), Eric Pickles MP – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government stated The reuse sector “is a proper lifeline for many people” and supporting the sector’s work is “common sense”.
He also added that the furniture re-use sector is far too polite and must now demand that Local Authorities work with it to “take the weight off the state”.
“The furniture re-use sector can demand but we also need to provide solutions to meet local authority need, whether it is waste, welfare or housing related”, says Helen Middleton, FRN’s spokesperson on welfare issues.
It’s not as though the sector has been quiet for the last 25 years; FRN has numerous examples of highly successful partnerships between local authorities and furniture re-use organisations (FROs), which serve to prevent waste; reduce waste disposal and management costs, reduce poverty and provide valuable workplace and training opportunities for low-skilled, hard-to-employ people.
Unfortunately, the FRN estimates that 85% of its members are NOT working with their local authority on waste prevention and re-use solutions.
Also, as welfare reforms are having an impact on low income households, the demand upon FROs for essential goods such as beds, washing machines or something to cook on, intensifies.
By improving departmental connectivity between waste, welfare, regeneration and housing, local authority cost-efficiencies, better waste prevention and improvement in the alleviation of poverty will be guaranteed.
But WASTE IS A POVERTY ISSUE.
Re-use organisations are forced to buy new goods to help people in need – which they can ill afford to do – because they can’t access the local waste streams.
So why aren’t more Local Authorities working with their local furniture re-use organisations?
Ignorance – on the part of the local authorities (LAs) and furniture re-use organisations - about the potential of working together on re-use, bulky waste collections and HWRC sites;
No-one knows where to start or find the right solution for diverting reusable waste from landfill.
Bulky waste represents a small percentage of the total waste handled by a waste disposal authority and LAs may think it doesn’t warrant the effort.
And now, in a climate of budget cuts, such `innovative’, potentially time-consuming activities for relatively minimal return, may seem luxurious.
You’ve had discussions or even embarked upon a pilot project with a re-use organisation but for whatever reason, progress wasn’t made.
A lack of confidence in the local re-use sector to deliver.
Applying off-the-shelf procurement approaches to all service delivery opportunities (the proverbial `sledgehammer to crack a nut’ syndrome).
Next Steps for Local Authorities
The FRN is all about providing solutions and brokering deals rather than asking more questions or demanding funding from you. We might furnish you with more information to read but we’d like to chat first and see if there is scope for the sector to `demand access to waste’ in your local area, as well as provide you with a low cost waste management and poverty reduction solution.
Contact FRN if you:
Want to prevent reusable and repairable waste going to landfill;
Want to reduce your waste disposal bill;
Want to ensure that people in need and in extreme crisis are supported well, and appropriately;
Want to ensure that people put into social housing can afford to stay there, and live comfortably;
Want to ensure that your local welfare assistance scheme funding is effectively spent, thereby making limited funding stretch further [see further information below]
Want to achieve real Social Value through commissioning;
Wish to join FRN in persuading the Government to rethink its decision to abolish what FRN and its members believe is essential funding to help people in need.
We want to hear from housing, revenue & benefits, regeneration and community liaison teams as well as Waste and Environment Departments.
The Furniture Re-use Network will:
Assess your problem – discussing your issues with FRN will be much quicker, compared to trawling through written guidance;
Research the capacity and capability of the local re-use partner(s);
Design and broker a service that suits both the challenge and the partners - possibly one that falls below EU procurement financial thresholds and which could save on a costly and time-consuming process – and, deliver a local solution that reduces waste, reduces costs, helps local families, provides employment and training opportunities, and supports your community.
Local Welfare Assistance Schemes
FRN is in complete agreement with the Local Government Association (LGA) and its Chairman – Sir Merrick Cockell – and is joining them in the call for Government to rethink its decision to scrap the £347 million Local Welfare Assistance fund. - See more at: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10180/5954063/NEWS#sthash.98XwH99y.dpuf
Councils are concerned that the withdrawal of Government funding for local emergency support schemes may leave some areas unable to afford to help out families in crisis. This could lead to short-term problems escalating.
Much of the charitable re-use sector has experienced a 100% increase in demand for essential household goods such as beds, clothing and food since April 2013, when a reduced funding pot and responsibility for helping people in crisis was passed to local authorities from the Department of Work & Pensions. Many re-use organisations are unable to meet this demand, particularly if the local authority isn’t working with the re-use sector in their area.
“Some of our members are working with and supporting their local authorities in different ways with some really innovative and collaborative schemes to help people in crisis, and are providing enormous value for money with goods and services, but this is only possible with State funding”, says Helen Middleton, FRN.
West Sussex County Council (WSCC) is a prime example:
By the end of the 2013/14 financial year, WSCC will have handled 6,100 applications for emergency assistance. As Louise Goldsmith, Leader of WSCC says: “It is a fine example of cost-effective preventative early intervention, very much in line with the County Council’s belief and policy to help people to help themselves…. where a relatively small amount of money has made a very large difference to people who are in pretty dire circumstances”.
Through the Local Assistance Network, WSCC has set up a network of voluntary and community groups who are able to meet urgent need by providing assistance in kind, such as furniture, vouchers for food banks or other household essentials.
Operationally, Ivan Western, WSCC’s Commissioning Manager for Supported Housing says “As a local authority it’s important that we are there for people in times of crisis. By working with third sector providers we’ve been able to make this money go a lot further than before. Our resources are better targeted and help is provided in a more timely and flexible way to meet the needs of individual families. Furniture re-use providers are a great example of this and their contribution is absolutely central to the success of the scheme”.
To find out more about the potential of reducing waste and welfare bills or a PDF version of this information, please contact:
Helen Middleton, Market Development Manager, Furniture Re-use Network
 Leeds City Council. In 2012/13, 775 tonnes of reusable product was diverted from landfill. This represents just 0.25% of the total waste collected. However, Leeds City Council were determined that social value had to be a strong outcome from their contract tender for a new re-use shop on the Seacroft HWRC site. As such, a consortia of Leeds-based re-use organisations are now managing the new re-use shop, and generating a profit not only for the local charities but for the local authority too. http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/recycling-success-for-leeds-tip-in-national-awards-1-6506507
 Please note that simply signposting people in need to furniture re-use organisations is not helpful without prior consultation with the organisations in questions. This can create an overwhelming demand on resources and is often counter-productive.
 The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 is intended to require public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts.