The Extent of Furniture Poverty in the UK | End Furniture Poverty

What is Furniture Poverty?

Furniture Poverty hides behind too many front doors

Furniture Poverty is too often a hidden problem yet it can have devastating effects on quality of life for both adults and children, leading to people being in unmanageable levels of debt to get the things they need. It can cause people to be trapped in unsuitable accommodation because they cannot access beds or cooking appliances for example to enable them to live elsewhere.

It is the single mother and child sharing a mattress on the floor for a bed; the family with no cooker who can only make hot food that requires hot water from a kettle; the family with no wardrobes or chests of drawers so clothes are stored in black bags on the floor; the family where there is no table for children to eat from or do their homework.

When there isn't enough money for fuel or food, where does the money for furniture and appliances come from?

Together we can End Furniture Poverty.

Over 6 million people in the UK do not have access to essential furniture, furnishings and appliances, according to research published today.

‘The Extent of Furniture Poverty in the UK’ uncovers the vast scale of furniture poverty across the country, using original data to show how many people are living without the essential furniture items such as a cooker, a fridge or a bed. It shows that 9% of both adults (4.8m) and children (1.2m) are in furniture poverty, with 9 million items missing nationwide.

The report by End Furniture Poverty also reveals how furniture poverty affects different socioeconomic groups for the first time. It shows that 25% of all black and black British people are living in furniture poverty, as are 26% of those who live in social housing, and 26% of all single adult households with children.

Of the 4.8 million adults in furniture poverty, 55% (or 2.6m people) have a disability. The report shows that having a disability makes someone three times more likely to experience furniture poverty.

Claire Donovan, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns for End Furniture Poverty (EFP), said: “Our research reveals the reality of furniture poverty and confirms what we have long-known. Furniture poverty is widespread and far-reaching; it pervades our communities and disproportionately affects disadvantaged groups. Everyone needs the essential furniture items to attain a basic standard of living and too many people are living without the items that make a house a home.”

End Furniture Poverty used data from a survey of over 5,700 people across the UK, collected by National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). They also asked people living without essential furniture and appliances, what impact it had on their health and wellbeing – 72% said it made long-term conditions or disabilities worse, 89% said it affected their mental health, and 73% felt embarrassed by their home.

End Furniture Poverty are also able to reveal which items people are living without. There are 2.4 million people living without a table and chairs, 1.2 million people living without flooring, and 740,000 children living without a proper place to sleep. In total, there are over 2m white goods missing from British homes.

Over 1 million people are living without three or more items and are therefore experiencing ‘deep furniture poverty’. These people are living with the worst consequences of furniture poverty, which can be extremely difficult to move on from due to the high cost of replacing furniture and appliances.

Claire said: “Just under three quarters of a million children do not have their own bed to sleep in, severely blighting their futures as they struggle with tiredness, while thousands of people with chronic illnesses do not have a fridge to store their medication. So much crisis support is currently focused on helping with food and energy bills, that support for furniture and appliances has become much harder to access.”

Living in furniture poverty has a devastating impact on people’s physical and mental health, and their social and financial wellbeing, and End Furniture Poverty believes that the scale of this issue is so large that charities, government, and businesses must come together to consider widespread solutions.

Along with a coalition of other charities, they continue to call upon the government to unify crisis support in the UK, bringing local welfare assistance schemes under the banner of the Household Support Fund, to utilise its significant funding and national profile. This would ensure that there is crisis support available in every local authority, with at least 50% ringfenced for furniture provision.

End Furniture Poverty urge the social housing sector to stop ripping out flooring when tenants move out, and provide new flooring where necessary. This is a practical and achievable step that creates huge benefits for tenants and makes business sense for landlords. With nearly 760,000 people missing flooring in social housing alone, (ten times more than homeowners), social landlords need to do more.

Furniture reuse plays a central part in alleviating furniture poverty. There are millions of reusable furniture items thrown out every year, while millions of people are living without these items. More effort must be made to join up the dots and connect these two groups and furniture reuse charities cannot do this alone. This not only combats furniture poverty, it also reduces waste - something that is vital in averting climate catastrophe.

“We believe that change is possible, that together we can end furniture poverty, but we have to do it together and we have to start right now,” said Claire.

End Furniture Poverty is the campaigning and social research arm of FRC Group, a group of registered charities and 100% not-for-profit social businesses who have been providing furniture, both new and preloved, to people living in Furniture Poverty for over 30 years. End Furniture Poverty carries out research to understand the causes and possible solutions to furniture poverty, raises awareness of furniture poverty and campaigns to deliver social change.

To read the full report, and End Furniture Poverty’s previous research, visit: https://endfurniturepoverty.org/research-campaigns/

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