Cash donation helps charity continue offering homeless a Fresh Start

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A Border charity which helps the homeless move into new homes has been donated £2,300 by the Eildon Trust.

The organisation provides starter packs of basic household essentials to clients as they move into their new homes, giving families and individuals, who may have no possessions, a helping hand until they can afford to equip their homes themselves.

The packs include essential household items such as good quality second-hand bedding and kitchen equipment like crockery and cutlery – which are all donated by the public. Fresh Start purchases kettles, duvets, pillows and cleaning materials to complete the packs, which are then distributed across the Borders by agencies such as Scottish Borders Council Homelessness Service, local housing associations and charities.

“Starter packs from Fresh Start are supplied free of charge throughout the Border area to individuals and families moving into new tenancies following homelessness,” the website says: “Many of these tenancies previously failed due to a lack of essential everyday items needed to complete a home.”

“Clients are referred to Fresh Start by SBC homeless services, local housing agencies and other support groups,” adds the local charity’s chairman Irene McFadzen.

“Our annual figures to March 2012 show we supplied 231 starter packs assisting 253 adults and 84 children. This was an increase of 30 per cent on our 2011 figures – partly due to the charity becoming wider known throughout the Border area.

“Fresh Start Borders are fortunate that the Eildon Trust recognises the value of the service we provide and has offered us a contribution of £2,300 which will help sustain our work over the next year.

“The money will enable us to bulk-purchase the goods we require to meet the increasing demand for our packs.”

A presentation will take place in the Weaving Shed at Ettrick Mill on Wednesday, September 26, at 11am.

Ms McFadzen also expressed her concern about how the new Welfare Reform Act, which legislates for the biggest change to the welfare system for more than 60 years, will impact on the charity’s work.

“We are anxious,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.

“The reforms will reduce the grants and funding available, and may result in an increase in homelessness as people are unable to meet their commitments.”

The reforms will phase out a selection of social security benefits such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, which are administered by local authorities, from 2013 to 2017, and replace them with the a single streamlined payment, called Universal Credit, aimed at improving work incentives.

“There is a nervousness about the reforms,” confirmed Cathie Fancy, group manager for housing strategy and services at Scottish Borders Council (SBC), “but Scottish Borders Council has set up a board to ascertain what the impact will be, and how we can mitigate the consequences so we don’t see a rise in homelessness.”

A council report, compiled after the Welfare Reform Act received royal assent in March this year, concluded: “The council and its strategic partners have set up a joint programme board to oversee these welfare reforms. This will ensure a managed approach to the changes and will ensure a co-ordinated approach in order to mitigate, as far as possible, any negative impact.”

For more information on the benefits being abolished, and Scottish Borders Council’s response, find SBC’s briefing note at http://councilpapers.scotborders.gov.uk/agenda.asp?meetingid=2532