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Charities stepping in to help families left in ‘non-food’ poverty

New research indicates that years of economic hardship have left many families in poor communities leaning on charities and community organisations for basic non-food items such as shampoo, toothpaste, cleaning products and nappies.

55% of the charities responding to a survey by In Kind Direct, one of The Prince’s Charities, said they were engaged in providing essential support to people struggling to afford basic supplies.

Charities have always helped the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society. However, whilst the wider economy is starting to recover, many charities are increasingly being drawn into providing more basic support for a section of the population yet to feel the benefits of this recovery.

The reality is that many people are turning to charities for household essentials, such as toiletries and cleaning products, long before they go to a food bank. In Kind Direct believes the statistics concerning food bank usage are likely to vastly underestimate the true scale of reliance on charity support at present.

In Kind Direct distributes a wide range of new donated goods to charities across the UK including laundry supplies, health products, toys, office supplies, clothing and footwear and baby items.

Nigel Brookhouse, Narthex Sparkhill in Birmingham explains:

“We serve an average of 340 individuals and families a week through the projects we run including one of Birmingham’s bigger food banks, an advice shop, men’s drop in project, senior lunch club and after school club. Many of our clients are destitute including refugees, asylum seekers, trafficked and abused clients. We help families who are struggling with essentials like nappies and basic toiletries. Many of the people coming to us for help just can’t afford these things.”

Pressure on charities has been compounded by volatility in the funding environment - notably a reduction in local and central government grant funding. For some charities this means a “double whammy” of reduced funding and increased demand.

Wendy Mahoney, Trustee, Stanley Mews Community Trust in Wellingborough adds:

“Historically people with learning disabilities would have been eligible for some grant funding via the local authority. Now what we’re finding is care managers are struggling to even get basic funding for support, never mind any of the additional pieces that somebody might need in order to put their life back together.”

“Many of the people we support are often faced with decisions about ‘do I buy cleaning products or do I top up my meter?’ Any help we can give via the support from In Kind Direct is really helpful in keeping people secure in their housing.”

Charities rely on organisations like In Kind Direct to help them rise to the challenges they face in surviving financial strain in order to continue to deliver and enhance their services.

Our survey was corroborated by research released by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year which showed that 4.7million households were living on incomes below the level needed for an adequate standard of living; a significantly higher number than the one million who are currently reported to use food banks.

--- Notes to Editors ---

For further information please contact Rachel Butler, Marketing & Communications Manager, 0300 30 20 200, rachel@inkinddirect.org

The following contacts are available for interview:

In Kind Direct: Robin Boles, CEO 0300 30 20 200.
Additional contacts across the UK at In Kind Direct charity partners are available on request.
Please phone In Kind Direct to discuss.

Interview footage from both charity and donor partners can be made available on request.

  • The results of the latest impact study show that by re-distributing goods In Kind Direct is able to alleviate poverty, improve self-esteem and is a vital support for charities working with some of the most vulnerable people in society. A press summary of the research is included below. Full findings are available on request.
  • To date, over 7,000 charities have received products from In Kind Direct, helping them save money on their operational costs, enabling them to spend more on their essential services.
  • In Kind Direct has made a powerful impact on communities through the redistribution of £135 million worth of surplus goods from 1,000 companies.
  • In Kind Direct is one of The Prince’s Charities, which is the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the UK.

Press summary of research

Our annual charity survey is a core strand of our impact measurement work.

810 charities took part in our most recent survey which represents a 35% response rate from our active network. Three main themes emerged from the research:

1) Charities have always helped the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society. However, whilst the wider economy is starting to recover, the effects of financial hardship in recent years has meant that charities are increasingly being drawn into providing more basic support for a section of the population yet to feel the benefits of this recovery.

  • Over half of the charities (55%) responding to survey said that In Kind Direct helped them provide essential support to people struggling to afford basic supplies.
  • Shampoo, washing powder, toothbrushes, cleaning products and household equipment are just some of the items that charities are being asked to provide to people who would otherwise go without.
  • 81% of charities in our network said that demand for their services had increased over the preceding 12 months.
    - Organisations originally established to tackle an issue such as isolation, boredom amongst young people, or bereavement, are now being asked to relieve hardship as well.
  • Across the country, charities are discreetly helping people to meet their basic needs, with much of this work going unrecognised.
  • Further public spending cuts announced in the March budget (£13.7bn cuts to the Department for Communities and Local Government and £12bn cuts in welfare spending) are likely to see this trend continue.

2) Pressure on charities has been compounded by volatility in the funding environment - notably a reduction in local and central government grant funding. For some charities this means a “double whammy” of reduced funding and increased demand.

  • 82% of charities that responded to our survey said In Kind Direct had allowed them to access goods they would not otherwise be able to afford.
  • Over half (56%) said In Kind Direct had helped their charity to keep going.
  • Over the last eight years, charity income from grants has declined while income from government contracts has increased.
    - NCVO figures show that in 2003/4, charities received £5.8bn from statutory grants and £5.5bn from public contracts. By 2011/12 (the most recent year for which figures are available) the figures were £2.6bn and £11.1bn respectively.
    - Charities need to adapt to this changing funding landscape as well as deal with issues such as having conditions attached to contracts which could potentially detract from core missions.
  • Both in our survey and anecdotally, charities tell us that in a climate of volatile funding, using In Kind Direct enables them to release more of their income to help the people that need it most. In practice, this means;
    - Money saved on cleaning supplies is used to provide additional places at summer holiday clubs
    - Household goods given for free in supported housing enables residents to focus on paying rent and utility bills
    - Less time spent by staff on fundraising means more time spent providing core services to those most in need.
  • In short, less money spent on basics such as cleaning supplies, kitchen equipment, and office goods means more money for charities to spend on doing what they do best; improving the lives of their beneficiaries.

3) Charities rely on organisations like In Kind Direct to help them rise to the challenges outlined above, to survive and to continue to deliver and enhance their services.

  • 50% said using In Kind Direct helped them to deliver new or different activities to meet the changing needs of their communities and beneficiaries.
  • Almost a third (28%) said ordering from In Kind Direct helped them to engage people they would not normally be able to engage.
  • With In Kind Direct’s help, charities can provide a more holistic service to beneficiaries:
    - Children’s charities have told us they are able to provide toothbrushes and toothpaste for parenting classes
    - Sports charities are giving washing up liquid and cleaning goods to members they know are struggling
    - Community centres are giving bedding and kitchen equipment to people who would otherwise do without.
  • The volatility of the funding environment, along with charities increasingly being asked to provide basic support to those struggling financially, means that In Kind Direct provides valuable support in helping charities to continue and thrive.
  • Sources

    Charity Finance Group: Economic Outlook Briefing, October 2014: http://www.cfg.org.uk/resources/Publications/~/media/Files/Resources/EOB_October_2014.pdf

    Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Households below a minimum income standard, Jan 2014: http://www.jrf.org.uk/media-centre/households-on-inadequate-incomes-increases

    NCVO: Counting the Cuts, 2011: https://www.ncvo.org.uk/policy-and-research/funding/what-we-believe