What is Furniture Poverty?

What is Furniture Poverty?

How do we stop poverty becoming part of the furniture? At End Furniture Poverty this is the problem we spend every day striving to fix. But what is Furniture Poverty? It’s a question we’re asked on a regular basis. This blog will (hopefully) explain what we mean when we talk about Furniture Poverty

But what is Furniture Poverty exactly? Put simply, it is inability to afford or access the basic essential items that provide a household with a decent quality of life and the ability to participate in the norms of society. If a household does not have access to the basic appliances and items of furniture that they need to meet a minimum standard of living, then they are classed as being in Furniture Poverty.  


The day-to-day reality

Most of us take furniture for granted, but those unable to access basic items of furniture find themselves excluded from some of the most basic aspects of everyday life.

How would you feed your family healthy, nutritious food without a fridge or cooker? Would you feel comfortable inviting friends around if they had nowhere to sit but the bare floor? Could you afford to use a launderette several times a week to keep your family’s clothes clean? How would you or your children function without a proper night’s sleep because you haven’t got a bed to sleep in?

These are the choices that a household living in Furniture Poverty has to make every day. The consequences are not only material. Going without the essential items can have significant impacts on people’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Being unable to invite friends around, for example, can heighten people’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. Going to school without a proper night’s sleep can leave a child unable to concentrate, falling yet further behind their more affluent peers.


A spectrum of poverty

FP Ladder.png

Furniture Poverty is a continuum, with varying degrees of severity best represented by the Furniture Poverty ladder.

At the higher end of the ladder is furniture insecurity, where a household has the items they need for now but live in fear of a crisis situation whereby if something breaks or needs replacing, they do not have access to the funds needed to replace it.

At the bottom of the ladder is furniture destitution, where a household has very few of the essential items – or worse none of them. Unlike furniture insecurity which represents people living in a crisis situation, furniture destitution is very much a chronic problem that requires a much more complex, longer term solution.


What does a household need?

In discussions with people we often found that the term ‘Furniture Poverty’ was a very broad one, with different meanings to different people. To some, an appliance such as a washing machine was considered absolute indispensable, whereas some thought it nonessential.

In order to add some clarity and make sure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet when discussing Furniture Poverty, we decided to launch a consultation to try to define the absolute essentials; the furniture and furnishings that every household should have access to in order to meet a minimum socially acceptable standard of living. 

Over 100 respondents from a variety of backgrounds – housing, academia, charities and social enterprises, and those with lived experience of homelessness and Furniture Poverty – contributed to the survey, producing a definitive list of 10 essential items. The list now serves as a benchmark for measuring whether a household is living in Furniture Poverty – and will be revisited regularly to ensure that it properly reflects the state of UK poverty.


The Essential Items

In all the items deemed to be ‘essential’ were:

·      Bed, bedding and mattress

·      Table and chairs

·      Sofa/easy chairs

·      Wardrobe/chest of drawers

·      Carpets

·      Curtains or blinds

·      Washing machine

·      Fridge/freezer

·      Cooker/oven

·      TV