The Government’s statement today (18th December 2014) is a welcome recognition of the importance of local welfare provision, but the cut from £174million to £129million will make it harder for local authorities and local voluntary organisations to help the most vulnerable in our communities, says the Furniture Re-use Network (FRN).
Over 60% of FRN’s 300+ members across the UK who are working on the front line of poverty alleviation say they are now also providing food parcels on a regular basis to people in need in addition to the 3.3 million furniture and electrical items each year. None of these charity organisations are part of the more well-known Food Bank networks, meaning this essential service, alongside the sector’s core` furniture bank’ role has gone unreported and unaccounted for in the Government’s latest decision on local welfare assistance funding.
In the last year, the re-use sector has dealt with an 18% increase in the quantity of beds, sofas and other essential household goods it has supplied to families in crisis.
As Helen Middleton, FRN spokesperson says “Our charity members are dealing with tens of thousands of individuals and families who fail to meet their local authority’s eligibility criteria for emergency welfare assistance; these charities are desperately trying to raise funds to help the people in their local communities as the State retreats in its support of the most vulnerable members of society; we believe the true level of poverty in this country is simply not understood.”
FRN’s concern is that this latest Government decision will force thousands of households to turn to loan sharks and payday lenders as well as place unprecedented levels of demand upon charities who already facing an uncertain financial future in the face of other local authority funding cuts.
During recent meetings with over 100 furniture bank practitioners, FRN’s view is that the furniture re-use sector is stepping in to deliver essential welfare support as local authority services disappear; and over 55% of members are working with their local authority to deliver extremely low-cost, practical solutions for crisis prevention.
Therefore, effective partnership working between local authorities and third sector organisations in the delivery of crisis support is the only solution to help the most vulnerable in every community.
Contact: Helen Middleton, Market Development Manager
Tel: 07726 358243
Notes to the editors:
FRN’s network of `furniture banks’ operate in some of the most deprived communities in the UK.
By providing access to pre-used, low-cost essential household goods, the furniture re-use sector saves low income families the equivalent of £350million. £350million that payday lenders, loan sharks and high interest retail stores won’t see.
Over 55% of FRN charity members are working with local authorities in various forms of support on local welfare provision. By providing second-hand goods rather than new, they are bringing significant savings to local authority budgets, both on welfare and waste.
Example: An effective local welfare assistance scheme:
FRN member - Resco – works with the London Borough of Hounslow (LBH).
In 2012/2013, under the centrally administered Social Fund, £463,900 was spent on 580 Community Care Grants for the provision of essential furniture, home ware and appliances for LBH residents (DWP, 2014).
When the funding was decentralised the following year, LBH set up a Discretionary Social Welfare Fund to resource the need. Utilising the furniture re-use sector, they were able to generate considerable savings.
In 2013/2014 LBH issued 520 furniture and appliance grants with a cost to the borough of just £95,325 and approximately £23,000 worth of home ware and other goods; a total of £118,325.
Switching from new items to re-use items reduced the average cost per grant by 71% from £800 to £228.
All FRN members are now providing a range of product and services – in addition to core essential furniture supply, including debt advice; mental health counselling; identifying people at risk, as an unofficial extension of local authority housing and welfare services.
In the last few months FRN members have:
- Stepped in to provide a refuge, training and support facility in the south of England for people suffering with severe mental health problems as the local authority closed its mental health services overnight leaving people, literally, on the doorstep the following morning.
- Established a package of support for clients including debt reduction, money advice, assisted relocation service and low cost furniture purchase schemes.
Provided furnished tenancy packs to Social Housing tenants in order to sustain tenancies for low income households, including families fleeing domestic violence; vulnerable adults moving from hostel to a home. In most cases, food, cutlery, crockery and bedding is also supplied.
From a survey of FRN members in April 2014, approximately 348,000 in-crisis households have tried to obtain support from 250 FRN member organisations to get access to low-cost – often free - essential household goods (e.g. beds) in the first 12 months of local welfare assistance schemes. Not all have been successful.
The Furniture Re-use Network leads and represents over 300 furniture and electrical re-use charities across the UK – 250 are based in England. The sector has been alleviating material poverty for over 30 years, 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 3.3millions items of furniture and electrical equipment.
FRN is a member of the #keepthesafetynet campaign with Crisis, Child Poverty Action Group, The Children’s Society and Cripplegate Foundation and 20 other anti-poverty organisations.