Pritie Billimoria, Head of Communications, Turn2us

The daily struggle of living without a basic appliance

27 September 2018

Most of us can imagine how a broken fridge or washing machine would be inconvenient or a financial hiccup. But the reality for many living without essential appliances is an intolerable struggle that’s not just leaving people further out of pocket, but also risking people’s physical and mental health.

Turn2us is a national poverty charity helping people find financial safety nets such as charitable grants or welfare benefits, so anyone at risk of poverty can get their life back on track. 120 years of grant giving gives us real insight into how living without essential household appliances – which are fridges, freezers, ovens and washing machines – can impact day to day life. Like many other charities we see too often that financial problems are never just about the money – people’s entire wellbeing is affected, such as their personal relationships, their health and ability to plan for the future.

The practical problems

Last year we found that over half of the people we help are living without at least one essential household appliance, and around a third have one or more dependents. We surveyed 4,000 people and they all spoke about the practical problems that come with living without household appliances, such as the extra cost and hassle of using a launderette, or getting to the shops every day for fresh food.

People don’t like to complain, and surely we don’t really need a fridge freezer, as our parents or grandparents managed perfectly well without one.

But when we probed a little further, we found the impact of living without basic household appliances goes deeper.

The emotional costs

Parents told us they are anxious and feel like they are failing their children, as they were unable to give them fresh and nutritious food as their fridge is on the blink and their flat doesn’t include a cooker. Or working adults told us they are having panic attacks, worried that their boss or work colleagues are going to notice that they can’t get their work uniform completely clean by handwashing it in the bathroom sink.

The link between living with the uncertainty and daily grind of poverty and emotional wellbeing is well known. But living without essential appliances also affects someone’s chance of recovering from a mental health problem. Anyone going through difficult times may lock themselves away from the world and struggle with daily tasks. Dragging themselves to the launderette so they have something clean to wear, or nipping to the local shop to buy food as they don’t have a freezer with emergency meals, often simply isn’t an option.  

Along with the likely worry about overdue bills, associated problems with personal relationships and work, not having fridge to store milk is the exact type of situation which could push a person from just about managing, to a complete crisis.

Help is out there

Any of our lives can be turned upside down as a result of an illness, job loss or relationship breakdown. But too often we see these events trap people in poverty. It doesn’t need to be like this. No-one in the UK should live in poverty. Turn2us wants to stop people being swept into poverty and offer a lifeline to anyone already struggling to cope.

Anyone struggling to purchase household appliances should find out what help could be available to them by visiting We can help people understand and access support such as grants, which are non-repayable, including money to help with the purchase of household appliances. Over £300m in charitable grants is available in the UK – many of the different funds will provide much needed cash to buy home appliances.