£150,000 funding as ground-breaking Big Hoose project aims to be self sustaining

Fife councillors have poured £150,000 into the ground-breaking Big Hoose project launched in Kirkcaldy.
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It has become one of the most important frontline initiatives in Fife, giving one million surplus goods to families in need. Launched by the Cottage Centre, it has the backing of astound 20 businesses, and has the funding from the local authority’s cabinet committee will help its move towards self-sustainability. It is the second year running councillors have offered financial help.

The initiative is a charitable coalition, founded in April 2022 when the Cottage Family Centre signed a deal with Amazon's Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline to distribute surplus goods to people in poverty. Over the past 18 months, more than one million products have been received by local families in need, and there are now at least 20 companies - including Scotmid and PepsiCo - which have signed up to back the project and donate surplus products.

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“We don’t expect this to become a recurring grant award,” councillors were told. “The initiative envisages development to become more sustainable going forward. It has been slower to get off the ground than expected, but it is off the ground now and they are starting to build up sales to generate money going forward.”

Simon McMahon (Amazon), Gordon Brown Pauline Buchan (Cottage Family Centre) at the Lochgelly warehouse (Pic: Ian Georgeson)Simon McMahon (Amazon), Gordon Brown Pauline Buchan (Cottage Family Centre) at the Lochgelly warehouse (Pic: Ian Georgeson)
Simon McMahon (Amazon), Gordon Brown Pauline Buchan (Cottage Family Centre) at the Lochgelly warehouse (Pic: Ian Georgeson)

There are other services and programmes that hold a similar role in the community, but the committee was told that Big Hoose fills a significant gap for local Fife residents. Nationally, the Scottish Welfare Fund provides Community Care Grants to support people needing household items, but the level of demand means that only essential items are awarded.

“Only some rooms in a home are carpeted and only some windows have curtains awarded for them. Items such as bedside tables, vacuum cleaners and other household items most of us would consider requirements of a home, are not able to be provided for,” a committee report said.

Locally, the housing service has budgets to help tenants who need essential household furniture and fittings if they are on a low income, but it’s done with discretion on a case-by-case basis.

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“The Big Hoose creates a significant impact for families, children, parents/carers and practitioners,” a committee report stated. “It clearly fills a gap in addressing child poverty and there is no evidence of it displacing any other services.

There are currently two Big Hoose hubs in the Kingdom - one in North East Fife and one in Glenrothes - where teams are working with Castle Furniture to access items for local families in their areas.

In Levenmouth, teams have developed a network of ‘Big Wee Hooses’ - a series of very localised distribution points across the area which local people themselves can access through a supported scheme. A third “delivery service model” for Dunfermline and South West Fife is still under development.

The Big Hoose’s ‘opportunity warehouse’ pilot website went live in July and it has already sold 5500 items and raised £35,000 for the initiative. It is hoped that this will eventually reduce or eliminate the need for external funding for the initiative.