March 2017

A very sobering comment made at the launch of Salford’s excellent Anti-Poverty Strategy[1] last month.

Focusing on just one crucial cost of living issue, Salford is `exploring new ways of providing cheaper alternatives to high street rent-to-buy providers for everyday household items, such as furniture and white goods’.

These cheaper alternatives exist[2], and they’ve been alleviating poverty for over 30 years. I’m sure Salford City Council must be talking to furniture reuse charities such as Emmaus Salford, The Mustard Tree, Helping Hands etc., to ensure its recently announced £300,000 boost to the Salford Discretionary Support Scheme works to help more in-crisis households.[3]

As an example, the partnership between the London Borough of Hounslow and Resco, saw a 71% reduction in the average cost per crisis grant in 2013/14, when the council agreed to switch supply from new, to reused household items to help vulnerable people in need. This meant the limited budget could help more people. There are many more examples like this.

But it’s not just about the affordable furniture. These charities often provide all the other essentials like the pots, pans, crockery, bedding, towels (usually for nothing); the volunteering, training and employment opportunities; the counselling; the befriending; the opportunity to escape social isolation; improving the well-being of vulnerable adults. They make an important and often hidden contribution to addressing wealth and health inequalities in their communities.

In Salford, these inequalities are stark: `The link between poverty and a higher risk of illness and premature death is well established. People living in some of our poorest areas are living up to 14 years less than those in more affluent ones. To put these health inequalities in perspective, a walk down the Bridgewater Canal from Worsley Green, female life expectancy is as high as 84.8 yrs and just two miles into the journey at Patricroft, it drops to as low as 73.8 yrs’[4].

There was much talk about social prescribing at this launch event; and the voluntary sector, led by the excellent Salford CVS, has a major part to play in this.
In the meantime, furniture re-use charities in Salford will ensure that whatever the postcode, an affordable, debt-free bed will be available to all.
What are other local authorities doing about emergency welfare provision in 2018/19?

Helen Middleton is an independent adviser, project and organisational developer and is founder of the Greater Manchester-based Furniture Poverty Hub.

[1] The strategy is an ambitious but necessary three-pronged approach to support those living in poverty; to prevent people falling into poverty in the future; and to influence Government policy and organisations to get a better deal for Salford.

[2] Furniture re-use charities save on council welfare and waste costs. They do this by diverting unwanted but perfectly reusable household goods destined for landfill, into the homes of people in desperate need. Their whole raison d’être is to alleviate poverty with the provision of affordable household goods.

[3] The scheme provides short term support for people who are in a crisis situation and unable to meet the basic needs for themselves or their families.

[4] `No-one Left Behind’: Tackling Poverty in Salford, A Joint Strategy from the Salford City Mayor, and Salford Youth Mayor. February 2017.


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