Beyond furniture

As the cost-of-living crisis grows, the help given to someone by furnishing their home goes way beyond the furniture itself.

When we define poverty we often reference the inability to afford food, shelter and fuel. We don’t tend to think of household furniture and appliances, yet these are essential for a basic and socially acceptable standard of living. Furniture poverty is not about home furnishings – it is about the lack of essential items.

How to store food safely without a fridge, or prepare meals without a cooker? Invite others into your home without a sofa to sit on? Get a good night’s sleep without a bed? The consequences of just these few examples are an unhealthy and expensive take-away diet, social isolation and a devastating impact on your ability to live, work and study.

Recent research carried out by End Furniture Poverty found that  providing a pack of essential furniture to someone in need meant, for them, greater independence, worrying less about money and improved mental and physical health. Just one furniture pack is transformational, profoundly impacting lives and, in the long run, creating £6,472 of social value.

BCM’s Resource Centre provides people in need with furniture, appliances, soft furnishings and bedding. These are either given free of charge or sold at a low price according to what individuals can afford. Each week around 5 essential furniture packs are delivered to people referred by support workers or housing associations moving into their own accommodation. Each year the Resource Centre’s two vans make some 2,000 trips around the city, collecting donated furniture and then delivering it to its new home.

Resource Centre Manager, Chris Fisher, said, ‘Today a client came in. She had fled domestic violence and ended up living on the streets. She has now been found a flat which needs furnishing. She said, “Thank you so much for what you have done for us. We were left with nothing. You have made us happy and put a smile on our faces.” She chose a futon, single bed, bedside cabinets and a TV for her flat.

Many people who come to us for help have found themselves in a place of crisis, or a place where they would never have expected to be. Thank you to so many who donate furniture to us, keeping the warehouse stocked and making sure we can supply the right items to the people who need them. The help given to someone by furnishing their home goes way beyond the furniture itself.’

· Over the past 10 years the cost of furniture, furnishings and carpet has risen by 32%.

· Even before the pandemic 4.8m people were without at least one essential household appliance.

· Only 2% of social housing is let as furnished.