Getting access to necessary furniture and appliances is still a huge mountain to climb for many people on low incomes, which means that furniture poverty is affecting millions of individuals and families in the UK. For care leavers, people fleeing domestic violence, or people who have escaped homelessness, this difficulty is magnified.
Despite this, a significant number of social landlords are still failing to offer furniture and flooring to tenants to help them get settled.
“We found that only 2 per cent of social housing properties are let as furnished or part-furnished compared to 29 per cent in the private rental sector,” said Claire Donovan, head of policy, research & campaigns at charity End Furniture Poverty.
Meanwhile, the cost of furniture has increased by over 40 per cent in the past 10 years. As a result, 4.8 million families are living without at least one essential household appliance, according to research carried out by charity Turn2Us in 2019.
While it is clear that a national solution is needed to solve this problem, a number of organisations have stepped up to fill the gap by providing people in need with grants and low-cost furniture.
What is furniture poverty?
Furniture poverty is the inability to access essential items that are required to provide a household with a decent quality of life and lets them participate in society.
It ranges from ‘furniture insecurity,’ where a household has the items they need for now, but do not have the savings to replace an item if it breaks or needs a replacement, to ‘furniture destitution,’ which is a long-term, chronic situation in which a household has none or very few of the basic items they need.
End Furniture Poverty classes ‘essential items’ as:
Bed, bedding and a mattress
Table and chairs
Sofa and/or easy chairs
Carpets in living rooms and bedrooms
Curtains or blinds
Refrigerator and freezer
What should you do if you don’t have furniture?
Get welfare assistance from your council
“If you’re living without furniture items, we would normally say that first of all you should have a look and see if your local authority provides support,” said Donovan.
Your council’s local welfare assistance schemes (LWASs) might be able to help you get items of furniture. Not all councils offer this service, many will only help with the most essential items, such as a cooker, a fridge/freezer, and a bed. Some will provide additional help with utility bills and food.
“Next we suggest speaking to your landlord, especially if they’re a social landlord. Some landlords will have crisis funding,” said Donovan. “It’s certainly worth having that conversation, even if it’s just to raise awareness that they’ve got a tenant living without essential furniture items.”
Search for grants
Donovan suggests moving on to the grant-giving sector. “There are lots of big grant-giving charities out there,” she said. “There are also lots of smaller occupational charities, which can sometimes struggle to get their money spent.
“If you go to Google and type in a job title or a profession area like ‘hospitality’ or ‘retail,’ and then type in ‘crisis support,’ that can bring up some niche charities where the application process is likely to be more straightforward,” she said.
Can you get help with furniture when on benefits?
Many organisations provide grants and appliances for people on benefits. However, It is important to note that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may consider a grant or fund as income, which could affect your benefits.
Who provides grants for people in furniture poverty?
Below, we have listed information on some of the main charities that provide grants for furniture and carpets in 2023 to help reduce to prevalence of furniture poverty in the UK.
The Greggs Foundation
The Greggs Foundation’s Hardship Fund provides grants to fund household equipment such as cookers, fridge freezers, and clothing.
Who can apply?
The Greggs Foundation operates in the north-east of England, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham, and Teesside. Applications must be submitted by a social organisation or charity on behalf of the client. It prioritises families and the most financially excluded people.
Family Fund works in partnership with Argos to provide people with Argos vouchers for items such as lamps, curtains, rugs, and furniture such as desks, beds, and sofas.
Who can apply?
Family Fund grants are available for families on a low income, raising a child or young person aged 17 or under with a long-term disability, disabling condition, or life-limiting illness. The main carer must have lived in the UK for six months or more. If you are not a UK national you will also need to confirm your residency status. Family Fund will look at your income and the impact of disability on your child.
Glasspool provides timely, small, one-off grants to individuals, couples and families. It also provides everyday items to people.
Who can apply?
Glasspool is one of the few UK-wide charities providing grants and support for people experiencing financial hardship, including furniture poverty. It has no restrictions on who it can help.
Glasspool accepts new applications from 11am each Monday. Once it has received as many applications as it can potentially fund for the week, the application system closes until the following Monday.
Wavelength provides free TVs, radios, and tablet computers to people who are isolated and can’t afford to buy this technology themselves.
Who can apply?
Anyone can apply if they are experiencing loneliness and cannot afford to buy technology. This might include people who have experienced the death of a loved one, have an illness or injury, have a disability or impairment, have experienced homelessness or domestic abuse, have become a refugee, or have moved away from friends and family. You can apply as an individual, or organisations can apply as a group.
Buttle UK’s Chances for Children grants are made for children and young people who are facing a range of complex issues. These individually tailored grants of up to £2,000 pay for items and other additional costs that parents and carers cannot afford.
Who can apply?
Buttle UK only accepts applications from frontline professionals such as registered charities, housing associations, or public sector organisations who are working directly with the children or young person, have ideally carried out at least one home visit, and have made a full assessment of the children’s or young person’s needs.
How do I find my local grants for furniture poverty?
Turn2us search tool
Turn2us provides a Grants Search tool that lets you enter your gender, age, and postcode to find out which grants you’re eligible for from charities in the UK. Its database includes over 1,500 grant-giving charities aiming to reduce furniture poverty.
The Reuse Network provides high-quality, affordable household items including furniture, electrical appliances, IT equipment, and more. It has multiple centres around the country, and you can use its search tool to enter your postcode and the types of items you’re looking for. While many centres charge for items, they are significantly cheaper than the retail rate.
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