St John’s partner with Curo to end furniture poverty

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Last year, St John’s Foundation teamed up with Bath-based housing association group, Curo, to launch a furnished tenancy scheme in the Bath and North East Somerset region.

Living in poverty can have devastating effects on a person’s wellbeing and mental health. To paint the picture, 4,000 people in BaNES, of whom 1,500 are children, were defined as living in absolute poverty in 2022. As these numbers continue to increase, it becomes ever more important to investigate the wider impact of this.

The furnished tenancy pilot scheme, named ‘Cosy Start’ was initiated to address the pressing issue of furniture poverty among individuals moving into new homes without adequate furnishings or cooking equipment. The pilot scheme received funding from St John’s Foundation and Fusion 21, amounting to £40,000.

The scheme aimed to help those at greatest risk of furniture destitution such as refugees, care leavers, resettled homeless people and those fleeing domestic abuse. When looking at furniture insecurity, those at most risk are working-age families, single mothers, those with a disability and Universal Credit claimants.

As part of the collaboration, Curo have furnished 16 houses so far in the region. The funding covered essential items such as furniture and carpets, white goods, and a welcome pack comprising a kettle, toaster, crockery, saucepans and bedding.

Prior to implementation, Curo gathered feedback from 150 customers through a survey. The results revealed significant demand, with 69% expressing that they would benefit from the scheme. Additionally, 51% admitted to incurring debt while purchasing essential items, while 79% spent time in their homes trying to get by without the essentials to live. Alarmingly, 34% reported having no furniture at all upon moving in.

Feedback from customers also highlighted the need for more focus on this area. One respondent said that this support was particularly important for those fleeing domestic violence, because moving from a property where you have everything to nothing risks the fleeing parent returning to their abuser for the security of their family having a bed.

Another response said:

“When I moved into my flat I had no furniture or white goods. I had to rely on catalogues to purchase all my furniture and white goods which took me a period of four years to pay off. Having furniture, especially white goods, when moving into the property is essential. It’s just as essential as having gas and electric and food.”

A year on from the scheme’s launch, all 16 households remain in their tenancies without any known issues, indicating the overall success and stability it has achieved for participants. Rent arrears among the pilot participants stand at 0% which drastically contrasts with the 18% average among new Universal Credit tenancies, highlighting the scheme’s positive impact on financial stability.

In addition to the financial stability participants have reached, the scheme has seen significant social benefits too. Customer feedback indicated high satisfaction, with a 4.6/5 rating and a strong case for recommendations for the scheme.

Reflecting on the life changing scheme, a pilot participant said:

“The items I have received have given me a sense of freedom and increased independence because we’re able to function normally and are less dependent on others. I worry less about money now as a result of the items I have received because I can store food for longer, I don’t have to use the laundrette and I don’t have as many takeaways.

In light of the extremely positive results, Curo plans to extend the initiative, with additional funding support from St John’s Foundation. The collaboration will help to further alleviate furniture poverty while contributing to social and financial sustainability in society.