For over 10 years, Helen Middleton, Founder of the Furniture Poverty Hub, has advised and supported hundreds of furniture poverty organisations across the UK. She’s written guidance on specialist topics to improve operations and partnership opportunities with stakeholders, and campaigned on behalf of voluntary organisations who work to improve the lives of people in their communities. Also, designing strong strategic development plans, generating income and building resources to sustain organisations for the future.

Technical expert. Business adviser. Capacity builder. Income generator.

Influencing & Campaigning

Local Welfare Assistance Fund (formerly the Social Fund), 2014

The Coalition Government failed to make provision for local authorities tasked with helping families living in crisis in its 2014/15 budget. By leading the furniture poverty sector in England, in coalition with other national charities and funders in the #keepthesafetynet campaign, a 50% budget reinstatement was secured for this last social security safety net. The campaign was a major triumph; only payday lenders, loan sharks and the rent-to-own retail market would benefit from its loss, thereby subjecting low income households to greater levels of debt.

Scottish Welfare Fund, 2015

Why waste money buying new, when perfectly decent, pre-used furniture and electrical appliances could be supplied by the voluntary sector to help people in crisis, save local authority money and achieve enormous social value? This was put to the Scottish procurement body responsible for designing and managing contract tenders on behalf of local authorities. A `Re-use’ Lot was introduced into the tender specification, and voluntary organisations are now part of the supply chain. The Welfare Fund is Scotland’s equivalent to England’s Local Welfare Assistance Fund.

Local Government Association (LGA), Reuse Commission Panel Member, 2014

Reusing materials presents a financial benefit for tax payers by reducing local authority disposal costs. Realising the resale value of unwanted `waste’ items presents an economic benefit by expanding the resource management industry, creating jobs, and putting money into the pockets of charities, businesses and individuals. The Local Government Association (LGA) Reuse Commission brought together local authorities, business and the voluntary sector, who advised and recommended convenient and cost-effective ways for local authorities to reuse household waste.

Poverty & Social Exclusion in Europe: 2016

The challenges faced by local, social innovation designed to help people confronted with poverty and social exclusion in Europe, were the focus of a 4 year international research project (ImPRovE). The benefits of a national infrastructure body, in alleviating poverty and improving employment opportunities, was researched and informed one of 30 case studies. Researchers and EU commissioners were updated on the furniture poverty sector’s activities within the context of UK economic, social welfare, housing and voluntary sector policy at a final conference in Antwerp, 2016. Research findings and recommendations continue to inform future EU policy and commissioning.

Research & Publications

We work with researchers and consultants on waste, welfare, anti-poverty and social enterprise development from the voluntary sector perspective. We’ve written guidance on a number of topics which benefit voluntary organisations, local authorities, waste management and social housing landlords.

Bulky Basics (Update). Joint Publication: Furniture Re-use Network (FRN)/WRAP 2012

Bulky Basics is a `how to’ manual detailing the operational requirements of a number of bulky waste management services delivered by the voluntary sector. With the aim of maximizing reuse potential and improving financial sustainability, the manual has helped many organisations to secure contracts, develop partnerships, implement services and minimize organisational risk. It is useful a guide for local authorities and waste management too.

Bulky Waste Commissioning Guidance, Commissioned by WRAP, 2010

Written in collaboration with Anthony Collins Solicitors, this guidance focuses on the legal requirements and practical options for commissioning waste-related services from the voluntary sector – from concessions through to formal contracts. Case studies demonstrated the benefits of getting social value specifications right first time in the commissioning process.

Reducing Waste & Costs: Social Housing Properties, Commissioned by WRAP, 2012

Four pilot projects and a number of case studies demonstrated the cost savings, waste reduction and financial inclusion improvements associated with voluntary sector/social housing partnerships. Pilot projects included the reusing and recycling of flooring; creating a zero-waste facility for void property waste; and leasing electrical appliances to tenants. Success was predicated on the significant social and financial benefits which social housing landlords could achieve.

Case Studies