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A Partial Repair to the Safety Net

Thursday, 05 February 2015 13:12

The Government’s decision this week (3rd Feb 2015) to award £74 million to upper-tier local authorities in order to support local welfare assistance (LWA) schemes is fantastic and welcome news for the charities and the local authorities that have campaigned for its restoration, but most importantly for the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people living in crisis in this country.

Whilst a victory – in part – the Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) and our 300+ charity members across the UK are still extremely concerned about our collective ability to help the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.

During the last 12 months of campaigning, FRN has been reporting on the increase in demand for essential goods (e.g. beds) and services placed upon re-use charities by people who have failed to meet their local authority’s eligibility criteria, and/or who require longer-term support.

Over 60% of FRN’s `Furniture banks’ are now unofficial food banks and are supplying food parcels on a regular basis to people in crisis.

Re-use charities are stepping in to provide services to people (i.e. those suffering with severe mental health issues) as local authority cuts literally close services overnight.

And many are reporting of their struggle to keep up with demand for the most basic items.

Local authorities have provided data to DCLG on the number of households and quality of support they’ve given via local welfare assistance funding.

But who is recording the number of people slipping through the safety net?

FRN is working on it, in order to inform a return to current funding levels in the medium term.

For now, we need to encourage local authorities to spend this funding as intended, and support them in order to help as many in-crisis households as possible.

FRN and its members have been heavily involved in the #keepthesafetynet campaign having written to, and met with MPs and local authority officers; responded to the two consultations etc., but we’re also providing practical, on the ground solutions, such as:

FRN member - Resco – working with the London Borough of Hounslow (LBH).

Resco collects donated furniture from residents who no longer need the items, making them available for those who need them the most.

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).

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.

Working with Resco and making use of quality, re-usable furniture has meant that Hounslow has been able to save money and allowed us to support more people.  This creates greater value for our residents financially, socially and environmentally.”

Harminder Persad

Assistant Head Revenues & Benefits 

London Borough of Hounslow


Social Impact

Resco is a Social Impact Business with a primary commitment to helping the long-term unemployed back into employment.  Through the Resco Programme they provide work experience, training and “one to one” support for those with major barriers to employment. 

The average length of unemployment for participants is seven years and 68% who have a history of offending, homelessness, addiction or mental health.  Through the furniture businesses they provide around 120 work placements for local people each year.  Of those who complete the programme, 55% have gone on into sustained employment


So why are only approximately 35% of our members working with their local authorities on local welfare provision?

It is a missed social, economic and environmental opportunity.

If local authorities and the LGA would like to find out how to make the reduced local welfare assistance funding work for you and your communities, please contact:

Helen Middleton, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 2011 times Last modified on Thursday, 24 September 2015 15:35

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