Lions step in to help starter pack service

Hastings Furniture Service
Hastings Furniture Service

Hastings Lions Club has given a scheme that helps re-housed families a £3,000 cash boost.

Members decided to step in and support the household starter pack service, run by Hastings Furniture Service (HFS), following an article in the Observer.

Earlier this month, we reported on how the scheme was at risk of ending because of a lack of funding.

The starter pack service provides packs containing essential items such as saucepans, crockery and towels and cleaning equipment.

The packs are given to people on low incomes who are starting a home with nothing, as well as those who have been homeless, people who are moving into independence after time in an institution, families fleeing violence and households that have suffered a crisis such as a fire.

More than 200 packs were distributed to Hastings residents by the furniture service in the last year, funded by the Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme (DESSS).

Val Vint, Hastings Lions Club’s community services chairman, said: “One of our members brought the Observer’s press cutting to our meeting and we all agreed that we wanted to help.”

Government funding for the scheme, which is run by East Sussex County Council, has been cut by more than 50 per cent despite a vigorous campaign to save it, led by HFS with cross-party support.

Earlier this year, a plan was put forward for borough and district councils to contribute £6,000 each towards the costs but this has been withdrawn.

HFS and other charities have asked all the local authorities to reinstate this contribution in order to fund the starter packs county-wide.

Naomi Ridley, from HFS, said: “We are delighted that the Hastings Lions Club has donated this money, which will provide packs for 50 households in need. We hope it will encourage other funders and the council to support this cause as well so that we can deliver packs for all the households that need the service this year.

“There is a massive need in Hastings for this practical support for families starting again with nothing.

“These are the most vulnerable people in our community and the packs provide a few essential household items to help them get back on their feet. The survival of the service should not depend long-term on desperate fundraising by local charities.”

Kevin Boorman, spokesman for Hastings Borough Council, said: “The government initially announced the ending of the separate local welfare assistance fund that it paid to county councils last year and the starter packs were funded out of that. We, along with other districts and boroughs in East Sussex, agreed to contribute £6,000 towards maintaining the Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme when it looked like the government was giving nothing. It then changed its mind and it is continuing to support local schemes, although at a reduced level.”

“However, it appears that the government partly paid for its change of heart by cutting instead the discretionary housing payment budget which is paid to local districts and boroughs. The discretionary housing payment is paid in addition to housing benefit for households in particular difficulties. This was cut by 25 per cent nationally. In response to this cut, the council is putting in an additional £50,000 into our budget.”