We welcome this opportunity to respond to the consultation on funding of local welfare provision in 2015/2016. We seek to alert Ministers to unintended, yet highly damaging consequences, which can be avoided without detriment to overall departmental objectives.
The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) is an infrastructure body representing and supporting the charitable furniture re-use sector for the whole of the UK. We exist to alleviate material poverty; create workplace opportunities for vulnerable adults and the long-term unemployed; and reduce negative environmental impacts by diverting reusable and repairable `waste’ away from landfill. FRN has over 300 member organisations in the UK; 276 in England. They differ in size, services and in the number of employment opportunities they can provide.
We have led national initiatives to support the retention of this fund and we have consulted our 276 members over the past year on this issue. Our response is an amalgamation of our sector’s opinions and recommendations, as well as interviews with social housing providers, debt advice agencies and local authorities (e.g. welfare; revenue & benefits; housing departments).
- Retain local welfare assistance funding for a further year.
- More time is required for local authorities to fully assess the efficacy of local welfare provision, and the positive impact this small amount of funding has had, and will continue to have, on the prevention of longer-term, bigger problems for society and for the public purse.
- Signpost local authorities to best practice and guidance in order to implement or improve local welfare provision. FRN has this.
- Encourage local authorities to work with furniture re-use charities as these organisations will maximise waste and welfare-related budgets as well as provide a range of complementary, free services.
- FRN would like a full analysis of the numbers of households living in crisis in England as local authority spending levels and approach to crisis support is NOT indicative of the reality in local communities. The Government; local authorities; charities; and front-line services have no idea of the scale of need of in-crisis households in England, and the demand this is placing on voluntary sector organisations and referral agencies.