Requests for financial help ’20x higher than normal’, says industry charity

Applications for financial help from people working  in the furniture industry have increased by 20 times during the lockdown as they struggle with furlough and redundancies, according to industry charity The Furniture Makers Company.

The Furniture Makers Company is the City of London livery company and a decade ago merged with the 120-year old Furnishing Trades Benevolent Association charity.

One of the Company’s prime purposes is to support people who work in the sector when they need financial help. Speaking on the latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast,  CEO Jonny Westbrooke (pictured) says this is providing a vital service as many face hardship during the current downturn.

“We give support to our industry in three ways – education welfare and excellence,” Westbrooke said. “And right now we’re massively focusing on the welfare support that we can give people who are finding times tough as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.”

Before the coronavirus, Westbrooke says, those applying to the charity for grants were doing so for varied reasons.

“For example, it might be somebody who’s got a really poorly child and has had to take time off to look after them, or it could be a respite holiday for a carer. So every case is individual, but it’s basically if somebody is in real genuine need they can apply to us for a grant and the vast majority of times we will be able to give them practical financial support.”

In March, the Furniture Makers Company setup a specific scheme – called Personal Support Grants – for those affected by the economic effects of the coronavirus .

“Our applications for financial support have gone up about 20 times since the same time last year,” Westbrooke told The kbbreview Podcast. “As you can imagine that’s caused a fair bit of thinking about how to reorganise things in the office, but that’s what we’re here for and, sadly, this is the biggest event that’s hit our industry for a long time. So, we’ve got to step up and help and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Personal Support Grants are available to anyone in the furniture sector and, Westbrooke emphasises, this is a very deliberately broad definition.

“Anyone in furniture or furnishing can apply to us for a grant, you don’t have to be making it, you can be selling it, moving it around, and involved in any of the different associated trades, so we try to interpret that as broadly as possible. We’re here to help people, we don’t want to turn them away.”

Individuals can apply for a monthly grant of £200 up to a maximum of four months. For married couples that rises to £250 and for sole traders it’s a one-off £500.

“It’s not going to fill the hole completely but for us it’s about welfare. Hopefully it’s enabling people to put food on their table and keep the basics going,” Westbrooke said.

For more information go to The Furniture Makers Company website

You can listen to this episode of The kbbreview Podcast by searching ‘kbbreview’ in your podcast app.

Or listen directly here…

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