Furniture poverty: the cost to our community

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The price of essential items is significantly rising, and furniture is no exception to the trend. Furniture poverty is on the rise and with the cost of living reaching an all-time high, many in our community are experiencing the effects first-hand.

Research states that 4.8 million people in the UK are living without essential items in their homes including cookers, fridges and even flooring. A study by End Furniture Poverty explains: ‘there are harmful physical, emotional, social, and financial consequences to Furniture Poverty, and it’s not just about material needs as furniture poverty is a consequence of the broader issue of poverty.’

Living in poverty can have a devastating impact on an individual’s sense of worth, wellbeing and mental health. The financial impact of furniture poverty is considerable – and set to get worse. For an average household living without essential items a significant cost is added to annual bills; living without a cooker and a fridge/freezer adds £1,365 adds £3,465 to a food bill; living without a washing machine adds £1,000 in washing expenses and living with faulty or inefficient white goods adds over £100 to energy bills.

According to Turn2Us, furniture prices have risen by 32 per cent in the last 10 years and the price of appliances by 17 per cent. Those most at risk of furniture poverty are working-age families, single mothers, those with a disability and universal credit claimants.

Being with no furniture is merely surviving, which is why our Crisis Programme can provide a lifeline for those in need. We provide financial support to families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet, typically by purchasing them essential items such as beds, white goods and furniture. Our work often goes further than this and, for those that need it, we can also fund services such as counselling, debt support and basic employment skills and training. However, housing continues to be the Crisis Programme’s largest spend. Last year alone, over 400 applicants were supported, with nearly 70% of the funding going towards furniture (£52,690); white goods (£35,787); carpets (£67,873) and general household items, such as microwaves, vacuum cleaners and utensils (£12,497)

Only 2% of social houses are furnished when occupants take up their tenancy and furniture is the biggest cause of year-one debt. This is why we have worked in partnership with Curo to launch a new Furnished Tenancy Scheme.

The pilot will furnish 20 social houses prior to the tenant moving in, allowing them to make it more than just walls and a roof; instead a real ‘home’. It is a preventative measure which avoids the need for many to incur debt, to approach doorstep lenders or High Street ‘rent-town’ stores; we hope it will minimise the risk of building up rent arrears and other debts. We also hope it will give those in need quicker access to a better quality of life and a cosy start to their new chapter.