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Social Heart, Business Head, Local Impact

Staying First

The Board of Staying First, an independent charity within SBHG, has made the hard decision to close the charity after full consideration of its financial position.

The Boards of Staying First and SBHA are committed to maximising social value for residents and the west London community so have agreed that most services will transfer into SBHA.

This means the debt and welfare benefit advice service, home improvement services and Social Fund & fit-out work will transfer into SBHA subject to continued funding.

We are contacting the commissioners of these services to discuss transferring their funding. If we can continue the services, these can be delivered on a more secure basis and with greater integration with other SBHA services.

Unfortunately, the Furnish furniture re-use service will close as it is not possible to operate without substantial ongoing financial support.

Staying First has delivered outstanding results but its financial position has been difficult for several years and would not have been sustainable beyond the summer.

Staying First runs three services:

  • A furniture re-use service, Furnish, which collects donated furniture and sells it through two shops. It also administers Social Fund or Local Welfare Assistance schemes for 5 local authorities.
  • A debt and money advice service which it provides to four housing associations, including tenants of SBHG, and Fulham residents. It also operates from two foodbanks with a grant from the City Bridge Trust and is part of the Hammersmith and Fulham Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer and is funded to provide advice services in Fulham by Dr Edwards and Bishop King's Charity.
  • An aids and adaptations service which provides home adaptations for the elderly and vulnerable for SBHA and several other landlords.

Director of Staying First Pam Sedgwick: “The Staying First team, through the commitment of the excellent staff, has made a huge difference to the lives of people living in west London. From our roots supporting elderly people to the broad range of services we now provide, we have always been focused on supporting the most vulnerable.”

SBHG CEO Matt Campion said: “For the last 50 years our focus has been on the communities we serve and creating social value. Bringing the majority of Staying First services into SBHA is the best way to ensure that these services can be maintained and developed on a secure financial footing.”

For the three areas this means:

Furnish

The Social Fund will continue as financial modelling shows that it is currently sustainable to deliver the service based on the income from five local authority funders. It will require a much smaller warehouse space than Furnish uses at present.

The furniture re-use service which collects donated furniture and sells it through two shops will cease trading.
 
The shop in Ruislip will close. We are looking at how best to manage the second shop, or whether furniture is the right product for the shop, as we recognise the value of having a debt and welfare advice service that is community-based. 

A combination of factors has led to the decision to close the re-use side of the business. This includes losing a ‘no rent’ shop in Shepherds Bush which brought in an annual income of £250,000. The two smaller shops (Ruislip and Fulham) have achieved less than half of the sales targets.
 
Furnish, without substantial ongoing financial support, is unable to meet the ongoing costs of renting a warehouse and shops. It is not the best use of SBHA or Staying First’s money to continue subsidising this service indefinitely. 

Furnish became part of Staying First in 2003.

Debt and welfare advice service

This is offered to residents of four housing associations plus Fulham residents, and a service through two foodbanks funded by City Bridge Trust. We are also part of the MHCLG-funded LBHF Homelessness Trailblazer.

We will liaise with our commissioners and funders to try to ensure there is a continuation of service wherever possible with former Staying First staff. For any SBHA tenants who are unable to use the service (e.g. in danger of eviction proceedings and the need for independent advice) this will be provided by another equally high-quality service.

Home Improvement Agency

This offers advice and home adaptations to tenants of four housing associations and a local authority. This service and its two staff will be brought into SBHA so the service can continue.