14 April 2024, 00:09
By Dids Macdonald Jan 15, 2020

Step up, urges furniture industry charity

Since it launched a new campaign to remind the industry of its charitable work, The Furniture Makers’ Company has seen an unprecented surge in donations, writes the company’s master, Dids Macdonald OBE. 

As a new year unfolds, with Christmas firmly packed away, for many it will have been a season of extravagance, some undoubtedly spending more than anticipated on having fun and treating our families.

And while we all yearn for the perfect festive season, there is no escaping that for some it puts additional pressure on families, with relationship breakdowns and financial difficulties all too common.For every three families coming together, there is one quietly crumbling and falling apart.

One of The Furniture Makers’ Company’s key functions is our welfare support. We provide financial help to furnishing industry employees past and present, and their dependants, when they fall on hard times.

Welfare has had an unmissable headline since I became master in May last year, as we launched a new campaign called One Step at a Time. The campaign’s underlying objective has been about reminding companies and individuals that our charity has been supporting people from the furnishing industry for more than 100 years.

The campaign has asked companies to sign up as One Step Champions, and to commit to communicating our welfare provision among their employees. We are not asking for money – it is a simple act of advocacy and a ‘communication tick-box’.

Our target was to sign up 100 companies as One Step Champions in the first year to start us on the road to ensuring all 338,000 people working in the wider industry, as well as retirees and former workers, know the charity can be a lifeline in hard times.

At the time of writing, eight months into the campaign, around 70 companies have signed up as One Step Champions, ensuring that more than 15,000 families know about the practical help and financial support that our charity can provide. And One Step at a Time has resulted in an unprecedented +42% upsurge in welfare-giving. 

There is no likelihood of that slowing down. By working together, we have kicked open a door that very much needed to be opened.    

And each cry for help is different. One of the people we have been able to support is Luke, an employee at a bed manufacturer, who heard about us from his manager. When Luke’s partner was placed into critical care after giving birth to their daughter, he had to take a sudden leave of absence from work to care for their newborn, while his partner fought for her life.

He was advised to apply for universal credit, but it was taking weeks for his benefits to be sorted out. Luke had no access to his partner’s bank, and she was unable to contribute to the household finances until she was out of hospital.Luke contacted us to ask for help to pay his rent, which was due in a couple of weeks. We agreed to pay Luke’s rent for three months, to give time for housing benefit to be awarded.

Luke was very relieved to be able to concentrate on looking after his baby, and helping his little girl spend time with her mother until she recovered enough to return home.

It was so simple for us to help Luke. Imagine the situation he’d be in if his manager hadn’t heard of us …

The Furniture Makers’ Company is on hand and ready to be a lifeline for those people who have hit a financial bump in the road – but they need to know that the lifeline exists in the first place.

Actions speak louder than words, and by signing up as a One Step Champion, you can make a huge difference to the lives of your employees and colleagues.One Step Champions are given tools to help promote the message to staff, including a certificate of involvement, posters, flyers and case studies. Our welfare officer will also make personal visits to your company to speak to staff about the help we can provide.

So please, do something amazing – sign up to One Step at a Time and help us support those in our industry who are facing a financial crisis. Together, we can help them on the step to recovery.

You can find out more about the campaign (and sign up) by visiting our stand (1-B90) at the January Furniture Show this month.

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