Furniture Re-use Network calls on the Coalition Government to overturn Vital Funding Decision
The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) has today (8th April 2014) launched an e-petition that if successful, will maintain a critical, financial safety net for families in crisis.
Backed by its 300+ charity and social enterprise members and other charitable bodies, such as ACEVO, FRN is calling upon Government to rethink its decision to scrap one of the remaining lifelines to vulnerable people and those living in crisis.
In April 2013, the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) created a two-year financial settlement of £347 million for local authorities to administer a local `hardship’ fund. DWP funding will end April next year, with all future decisions on funding resting with the Department of Communities and Local Government.
These local welfare assistance schemes exist to help people in crisis with vital, short-term expenses such as food or clothes; and help people in severe crisis to obtain basic living essentials such as beds and cooking equipment.
The ending of this funding stream in April 2015 is likely to lead to a sporadic provision of crisis help because some councils, which have no statutory duty to provide local welfare, might decide to close their schemes altogether.
“FRN is extremely concerned about the impact this will have upon people in need” says FRN spokeswoman, Helen Middleton. “Since April 2013, many of our members have experienced an increase in demand for essential goods from low income households, which they are struggling to meet. However, where a local authority has implemented a multi-agency approach, which includes furniture re-use charities, they have found that their allocated budget has been effectively and innovatively spent and successfully supported those who need it most”.
Ivan Western, Commissioning Manager Supported Housing at West Sussex County Council reiterates this view, “‘As a local authority, it’s important that we’re there for people in times of crisis. More than 6,000 households have received help in one way or another during the course of 2013/14. 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’.
As Helen concluded, “Our major concern is that as State support retreats, low income households will increasingly turn to pay-day lenders and loan sharks in order to afford and access essential goods, thereby plunging them further into debt.”
The e-petition can be found at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63001
Notes to Editor:
Local welfare assistance schemes were set up in 152 local authorities in England in April, after the old, nationally administered social fund was "localised" as part of the Welfare Reform Act.
The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) is the national body which supports assists and develops around 300+ charitable re-use organisations and social enterprises across the UK that collect a wide range of household items to pass onto people in need. We do this to reduce poverty by helping households in need access furniture, white goods and other household items at affordable prices. In addition, we support re-use organisations in providing training and work placement opportunities for people who are socially excluded. The FRN is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee.
Re-use charities utilise unwanted furniture, large and small domestic electrical appliances, clothing and other household goods that would otherwise be destined for landfill, thereby providing both welfare and waste prevention solutions for local authorities.
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.
Even though only 40% of local authorities are working with local re-use charities to help people in need, FRN has a number of excellent examples of local authority/third sector partnership working.
In his keynote address to the FRN Conference in March 2014, 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”.
By establishing the e-petition, FRN is lending its voice to the Local Government Association’s (LGA) recent statement (24th February 2014) that it was 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.
Typical recipients of the hardship fund are low-income families who suffer sudden financial crisis as a result of domestic violence, ill-health or natural disaster such as flooding.
Future `social fund’ type decisions will be a matter for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). A spokeswoman for the DCLG said that from 2015 local welfare is to be funded from local authority general funds.
ACEVO is the Charity Leaders Network. As the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, they are the leading voice of the UK’s charity and social enterprise sector.
For further information contact: Helen Middleton, Market Development Manager, Furniture Re-use Network.
Tel: 07726 358243
 As reported by Patrick Butler, The Guardian, 3 January 2014.