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The Essential Items

How do you think you would cope without a bed? Not just a night on the couch, but nowhere comfortable to sleep day after day. Imagine not having an oven. How would you feed your family affordable nutritious food with only a kettle and a microwave? You might be fortunate enough to be able to quickly replace items of furniture and white goods when something breaks or goes wrong, but this is the daily reality for many households living in Furniture Poverty. 


The End Furniture Poverty campaign was launched to research the issue of Furniture Poverty, in order to raise awareness, to educate people about the potential solutions to Furniture Poverty and, ultimately, to ensure that everyone has access to the essential furniture and goods they need to lead a secure life. 

In discussions, 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 – others argued that it wasn’t furniture at all. Compiling this list means that we can all sing from the same hymn sheet when we discuss Furniture Poverty moving forward. 

In 2016, we launched a consultation to establish what these ‘essential’ items were. By assembling a list – the items that a household needs access to in order to lead that basic acceptable quality of life, including the social aspects of life – we can give ourselves a benchmark by which to judge whether a household was living in Furniture Poverty. Respondents were asked to rate from 1 to 5 a list of 19 items mentioned in the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (PSE) research project, led by the University of Bristol.


The list of items deemed to be essential is as follows: 

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• Bed, bedding and mattress 

• Table and chairs 

• Sofa and/or easy chairs 

• Wardrobe/drawers 

• Carpets in living rooms and bedrooms 

• Curtains or blinds 

• Washing machine 

• Refrigerator and freezer 

• Cooker/oven 

• TV 

Access Issues

The main barriers cited as preventing people in Furniture Poverty from getting the items they needed were: 

Low income – people simply not earning enough or getting enough through their benefits to be able to afford the items they needed 

Funding eligibility – existing sources of financial help having too narrow criteria, meaning that people who needed help were not eligible to apply for it. 

Amount of funding – pots of funding and money, including Local Welfare Provision schemes, are not big enough to help everyone that needs it