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Washing Machine - Washing Machine
Last updated October 2020

Appliance poverty: Living without during Covid-19 - AO Business

Piers French from AO Business, who chaired our panel discussion around appliance poverty during Covid-19 at ACO's Annual Conference, discusses some of the key points raised during this discussion. 

Pre-Covid, according to Turn2Us research, there were 4.8 million people who did not have a fridge freezer, cooker or washing machine. The research showed that not having a washing machine could increase family expenses by £1,200. Providing a cooker will give a family a greater chance of a healthier life, by no longer relying upon microwaved meals. The insecurity of living without puts strain on families, jeopardises tenancies and disproportionately disadvantages people with disabilities. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be made redundant. Covid has only magnified the impact, but fortunately many within the sector are making a difference.

At the ACO Annual Conference, AO hosted experts from Family Fund, Turn2US, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and End Furniture Poverty to discuss appliance poverty, its impact and recommendations for the future. The consensus was that appliance poverty is both a symptom and a cause of poverty. An unexpected cost, which increases expenses and can lead to vulnerable people choosing high cost credit. In short, those who can afford it the least are impacted the most.

The panel focused on a series of key themes, including:

  1. Network of support – Given the scale of the problem charities and housing associations need to work together: sharing resources and providing clear signposting to support those in need. No matter which organisation a vulnerable person approaches, providing a warm referral to an organisation that can support is key.
  2. Providing essential items – Provision of appliances and furniture can reduce outgoings and social stigma, but more needs to be done.
  3. Collaboration – not-for-profits are working closer with private sector organisations to support vulnerable people.
  4. Long term debt – The debt burden is mounting as many are turning to friends and relatives in the short term as personal finances are becoming more fragile.

It’s clear from the panel discussion that the pandemic has made inequalities clearer and the impact of not supporting the most vulnerable starker. However, there is a universal recognition that people share a passion to help and now action is only a series of video calls away.

The hope of the conference was that as this pandemic develops from focusing on emergency support, there are new opportunities to deliver some long-term improvements to people’s lives.

AO takes great pride in delivering essential items on behalf of charities such as Family Fund, Glasspool and SSAFA to people most in need.  Please get in touch if you want to discuss further.