Dream is to end food poverty in Burnley

David Harris from the Credit Union and Mark Hirst, of Spacious Place Engage
David Harris from the Credit Union and Mark Hirst, of Spacious Place Engage
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Ethical lending and a desire to eliminate food poverty in Burnley and beyond are the cornerstone principles of a community group still striving to help vulnerable people in the town.

Dedicated workers at Spacious Place Engage, a social enterprise group based in Briercliffe, have spoken about their ongoing commitment, which has now extended to providing vastly reduced essential items for families, and a desire to reduce the need for foodbanks.

Managing director Mark Hirst spoke to the Express about his desire to provide an alternative to the high interest “rent to own” stores in Burnley, which he believes are forcing families into debt and the need for foodbanks.

He said: “We have been in Burnley for eight years now, in various forms, and the foodbank has been a key part of that.

“However, we want to get to the stage where there is no need for a foodbank. Our foodbank is a home delivery service, not a drop-in.

“We chat to the people using it and try to find out the reasons why. If we can eliminate those reasons then that’s brilliant.”

Since August, the Spacious Place centre has become home to a discount furniture and electrical store at the Briercliffe Shopping Centre, which also includes Community Re-Paint, a national scheme that sells surplus branded paint at hugely discounted prices.

An estimated 50 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year goes to waste. As part of Community Re-Paint, the store collects leftover from tradespeople and manufacturers, and sells on the paint whhc otherwise would have gone to waste disposal.

Mark added: “Regarding the paint, this is obviously an environmental benefit as well. Our store sells all kinds of furniture and electrical goods which are either customer returns or end of line products. Anyone can come in and look around.”

The Pennine Credit Union, offering ethical loans and savings, is also based in the same building.

Mark cited the example of a vulnerable woman who had bought a bed and mattress from a local rent to own store and was spending £2,500 over three years causing her serious debt and financial hardship.

Spacious Place advised her to return the goods and sold her a new double bed and mattress for less than £500, making only four monthly payments to PCCU – reducing her need to use a food bank.

• From January to December 2017 the Burnley foodbank received 1,464 referrals, feeding 2,671 people (938 of these were children), and made 2,760 volunteer deliveries.