A new report from the #LivingWithout campaign, led by welfare charity, Turn2Us, shows a staggering 4.8 million people, or 6% of households, are living without either a cooker, fridge, freezer or washing machine.

The campaign reports that disabled people are almost three times as likely to be affected by appliance poverty, with 16% living without at least one essential item.

Last year we made over 6,800 grants for either a cooker, fridge/freezer or washing machine.

Our CEO Cheryl Ward said: Appliance poverty is putting the health and welfare of disabled people at risk - and that includes disabled children.

“Dirty or damp clothing and bedding increases the risk of infections for those with vulnerable immune systems. Faulty or broken fridges mean that essential daily medication cannot be stored, neither can special foods or liquids for everyday feeding. No cooker for hot meals means children with bowel disease or other conditions that tolerate cold foods risk their medication becoming ineffective.

“It also costs three times more to raise a disabled child than other children, with many parents having to reduce or give up work to care for their child, which helps explain why the report found that more than half of households with a disabled person (55%) need to replace at least one of their kitchen appliances.

“In the last three months alone, Family Fund has awarded almost 1,600 cookers, fridges/freezers or washing machines across the UK, alongside thousands of other grants.

Living Without findings

The #LivingWithout report shows 4.8 million people are living without at least one essential household appliance (cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine). This impact of this can mean:

  • Financial difficulty: Extra costs by being unable to cook meals and relying on ready meals or being unable to store food and having to shop every day. Or the extra costs of having to use a launderette – which can cost over £1,000 every year.
  • Physical/health difficulties: Lack of food storage or preparation means a poor diet, and no access to a washing machine means increased likelihood of having to wear dirty clothes and resulting poor hygiene.
  • Emotional difficulties: The report shows living without can leave people feeling unhappy, anxious, and with worse mental health, and particularly that children that are affected.

Family stories

"S, aged 10 has Cerebral Palsy which causes frequent vomiting and incontinence. We have been able to help in the past two years. Last year, the family needed to bulk blend, store and freeze meals suitable for their child but their old freezer was too small. This year the family needed a washing machine as their child’s incontinence results in lots of changes of clothing and bedding.Though the family are on a low income, they are not eligible to apply to their local Community Support Scheme as they are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit."
"4 year old O is tube fed overnight. His condition means he produces large volumes of urine and this, together with leakages from his tube, means he needs a lot of changes of clothing and bedding multiple times a day and night. The family are struggling to keep up with clean bedding and clothing and need a fast turnaround. We had provided a washer dryer as it is essential for O’s health that enough clean and dry bedding and clothing are available to help prevent risk of infection. Although family are on a low income, they are not able to access their local Welfare Assistance scheme as part of the eligibility criteria is that they must have exhausted all other options, including charities, before approaching the scheme as a last resort."

"Due to his Cerebral Palsy, Rich often spills things and dirties his clothes, so we really need a working, reliable appliance.” - Read Rich's story

"As more bin bags filled with smelly, dirty washing my mental health began to decline." - Read Miriam's blog 

The report also highlights that this disproportionately affects families on low incomes, such as those we support, who are already coping with the additional needs that their disabled or seriously ill child’s condition entails.

The report identified that, as wages and housing benefit have not kept pace with increases in rent, bills and other housing costs, the most vulnerable families may face a choice between going into debt, or going without proper food or clean clothes, unless support is available from elsewhere.

The use of high-cost credit to purchase appliances can be a blight on families already struggling to get by, and the report identifies that available alternatives need to be better promoted.

The report also highlights the impact of the 2013 replacement of the national Social Fund, which provided financial or essential goods support for people in crisis, by Local Welfare Assistance Schemes (LWAS). Since being passed from central Government to Local Authorities, a decrease in funding, and lack of ring-fencing of funding for this specific purpose, and a lack of guidance in how to deliver support has resulted in a ‘postcode lottery’ of provision, with over 25 LWAS closing completely.

In 2013, to support Local Authorities in delivering their LWAS, we created a trading arm, Family Fund Business Services, to offer grant administration and fulfilment services to local authorities, charities and housing associations. This model pools Family Fund’s expertise to make the most of available funding, and has already returned around £1.5 million in rebates to customers since 2014, while generating income to support the work of the Family Fund charity. This means more funding available to help beneficiaries and we are actively seeking opportunities to work with new partners and share our knowledge to help others.

Tackling the crisis

The report makes a number of recommendations, which could make a significant, practical difference to the lives of families, including improving funding for LWAS, launching a select committee inquiry into furniture and appliance poverty, raising awareness of alternatives to high-cost credit, and reviewing local housing allowance rates and the current benefits freeze.

Cheryl Ward, commenting on the recommendations, said “We are striving to reach more families raising disabled children that need an essential grant such as a kitchen appliances, and support the call for a Select Committee inquiry to help better understand the causes and impact of furniture and appliance poverty.

“This report provides an opportunity for us to take action and ensure that families raising disabled children, already facing debilitating additional costs, can be given a better chance in life.”

Click here to read the full report and find out more about the #LivingWithout campaign.