Brexit stockpiling hits charities relying on donated goods

Companies worried about Brexit are holding on to products they would usually pass on to charities, putting them at risk of closure

This story has been amended – see final paragraph

Brexit uncertainty could lead to the closure of charities that rely on unwanted company goods, it was claimed today.

In Kind Direct, a charity that distributes goods from companies such as Asda, Samsung and Unilever UK, said the value of products it had passed on was down by £500,000 on its forecast for the first quarter of 2019.

It blamed the decline on companies stockpiling products in advance of the original 31 March Brexit deadline.

Robin Boles, chief executive of In Kind Direct, said some products that have use-by dates, such as shampoo, were released from storage after the deadline was missed, enabling it to claw back more than £200,000 of the £500,000 shortfall by the end of June.

But she said continuing Brexit uncertainty remained a concern, particularly given that a survey by the charity in February revealed 75 per cent of beneficiary organisations said products sourced from In Kind Direct enabled them to keep going.

"These products provide vital support to so many of the thousands of charities we support," Boles said.

"We fear that without these products many of the charities in our network will be forced to close their doors or reduce the services they are able to provide, and this will have a massive impact on the millions of vulnerable people they support. And this is all before any issue of tariffs arises."

She said it was understandable that companies were having to manage their stock carefully, but urged manufacturers and retailers "to continue to supply products charities need to run their services and provide to those most vulnerable in our communities".

Hygiene products such as shower gel, detergent and washing-up liquid were among the items affected, which Boles said meant families had to choose between eating and staying clean. Donations of IT equipment, small appliances and tools have also fallen.

Asked whether the advent of new Prime Minster Boris Johnson, who has pledged to leave the European Union by 31 October, would end the uncertainty, Boles replied: "We certainly hope the uncertainty for manufacturers, retailers, charities and the country as a whole ends soon.

"But that is just step one. We are also very concerned about whether anyone is thinking about charities when planning tariffs in any new regime to ensure products moved for charitable purposes in and out of the UK remain tariff-free."

In Kind Direct has distributed more than £200m in value of donated products to charities since it was founded in 1996.

This story has been amended to accurately reflect the gender of Robin Boles and that the value of products was down £500,000 on its forecast for the first quarter of 2019 

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