Crucial insight into the scale and impact of appliance poverty highlighted in New Living Without report

Family Fund Business Services welcomes Turn2Us’s #LivingWithout report and campaign, which highlights the scale and impact of appliance poverty.

The #LivingWithout Report clearly demonstrates that the impact of Living Without an essential household appliance is deeply felt by those in need, both practically and emotionally, with a staggering 4.8 million people, or 6% of households, living without either a cooker, fridge, freezer or washing machine.

Whilst FFBS have seen and supported the growing effort across sectors to counter the impact of reduced budgets, the report shows there is still work to do. #LivingWithout recognises that addressing the causes of appliance poverty requires a holistic approach, with changes in policy and practice both nationally and locally, and the public, private and third sectors all have a role to play in solving this crisis.

From our particular understanding and experience of the challenges facing families and local authorities, we would stress the importance of the following recommendations from the report:

Bolster Local Welfare Assistance Schemes

As the report identifies, an increasing number of local authorities have abolished their welfare assistance schemes due to funding pressures and our experience of working with Local Authorities is that there is great uncertainty and concern for the future of such vital funding. We unreservedly recommend bolstering Local Welfare Assistance Schemes, to address the continuing need to support those living in crisis. Whilst the support that a crisis award can offer is short term in nature, the long term positive effects are vital in ensuring the wellbeing and safety of those living in financial hardship.

Creating in-house grant funds for tenants

Many housing organisations offer an in-house Hardship Fund to support residents in sustaining their tenancy and the benefits of this alongside some compelling examples of good practice, are highlighted in the report. FFBS understand that setting up and administering an in-house scheme can be daunting, as the perception can be that it both creates additional workload and is potentially expensive to deliver.

In our experience, we have found that FFBS’ expertise in grant delivery and administration offers reassurance in this regard, lifting the onus of supplier contract management and creating efficient ordering processes, and fund management. FFBS is also able to support with grant fund management, providing a service that not only delivers quickly and securely, but ensures every financial transaction is clearly recorded and reportable, alleviating much of the administrative burden.

The creation of in-house grant schemes for tenants is achievable and is wholeheartedly welcomed by FFBS, as it would both help tenants experiencing furniture and appliance poverty and reduce the risk of them falling into rent arrears.

Reinforce collaboration between charities to share expertise and negotiate better prices for goods

FFBS’ model is a true illustration of this recommendation in practice, bringing to life the real potential in partnership within the Charity Sector. The more charities and housing organisations FFBS are able to work with, the greater the collective purchasing power and potential to make funding go further. Increased collaboration will continue to build on the strong foundations formed, further supporting those organisations who want to drive real change through partnership working. FFBS welcomes more partnerships, more collaboration, and more creative ways of working. Developing corporate partnerships, between more organistions could be the way forward for grant makers to reduce the cost of furniture and appliance grants for families

The Challenges for Local Authorities in providing grant schemes

As well as the challenge of reduced budgets, many local authorities identified inefficient processes in providing awards as a stumbling block to providing effective support.

In our experience, the need for numerous different grant items proves difficult for local authorities to manage, often resulting in multiple streams of spending across a range of suppliers. This lack of streamlined procurement and spending has been the catalyst for many of our partners searching for better solutions to manage their processes, as well as their budget. This is where FFBS’ holistic approach to procurement, offering the infrastructure and expertise to quickly and efficiently deliver grant items to those in need, is able to provide a unique solution to the need.

The benefits of direct delivery are also championed by charities and housing organisations, who FFBS works with collaboratively to deliver grant awarded items including kitchen appliances, beds, sofas, food baskets, energy vouchers and prepayment cards.  Providing items directly, rather than issuing cash grants, can also help use funding more efficiently. The #LivingWithout report highlights that cash can play an important role in helping to provide a sense of independence and can remain the best choice in some circumstances. However, our experience of working with local authorities has shown that providing the goods directly to a beneficiary allows the local authority to offer a fast and reliable solution to the beneficiary’s need, as well as ensuring cash grants are not absorbed by existing debt. Directly delivering and installing an essential appliance via a trusted supplier also guarantees beneficiaries receive a safe and good quality item, which the report highlights many individuals are struggling to find.

The impact of partnership working

As per the #LivingWithout campaign’s recommendation, FFBS’ model is to procure kitchen appliances and other essential items on behalf of Local Authorities, using the combined purchasing power to secure the best possible prices and support packages. By partnering with FFBS, Local Authorities can access a well-established network of trusted suppliers to quickly and efficiently deliver thousands of essential items to those in need.

Following FFBS’s launch in 2013, contracts with 27 Local Authorities in England were secured either directly or via partner organisations. In addition to this, FFBS works with a partner organisation to provide fulfilment services to the 22 Local Authorities in Wales to providing the Welsh Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF).

FFBS now also provides fulfilment services to a number of housing organisations and charities; as awareness of how the model can benefit organisations in these sectors has grown.

In 2017, FFBS began to receive enquiries for support in grant administration and fulfilment from the charity sector, which has resulted in the development of several charity partnerships. Today, partnerships have been developed with 14 charities and benevolent organisations, streamlining their procurement to ensure their vital funding goes further.

Housing associations keen to support their residents in need through their Hardship Fund provision, have also sought to access the unique procurement model offered by FFBS, securing a fast and efficient way of purchasing essential items for their tenants; putting Social Value at the heart of their procurement. Today, FFBS works with eight Housing Organisations, and our presence in the sector continues to grow as housing associations seek the expertise of FFBS in delivering hardship and crisis awards.

Last year our local authority, charity, and housing sector partners awarded £16 million pounds (net of VAT) worth of items through FFBS’ collaborative procurement model. This included 8,991 washing machines, 7,530 cookers, and 8,705 fridges and fridge-freezers. Of this £16 million, we returned £355,268 to our partners in rebates, and we gifted nearly £750,000 to our parent charity, Family Fund, to support their work in providing grants to families on low income families raising disabled or seriously ill children.

We estimate that the savings returned to our customers equates to helping an additional 2,702 households across the UK (based on the average grant value across all customer welfare and grant schemes). This really illustrates the power of working collaboratively, which is shown in our latest Impact Infographic below.

The recommendations outlined above will certainly address many of the issues highlighted in the #LivingWithout report. In the meantime, FFBS welcome more partnerships, more collaboration, and more creative ways of working to help alleviate appliance poverty.

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