SANDWELL Council has given the go-ahead to plans to work with a Blackheath charity to provide furniture and white goods to the borough's most vulnerable people.

The council has been running a Local Welfare Provision Scheme for the last five years to provide crucial support to people who are faced with a crisis or suffering financial hardship.

But a formal contract has now been established with the Loaves 'n' Fishes, enabling them to provide support to those in need for the next four years.

Councillor Steve Trow, cabinet member for culture and core services, said the council was proud of its work providing crucial support to people in difficulties.

“Our decision to continue to fund this scheme demonstrates our commitment to support our most vulnerable residents at a time when many other councils no longer provide assistance or now have schemes where residents in acute need are required to take out loans,” he said.

Cllr Trow said the council is also continuing to support the main foodbanks in the borough with grant funding so that people who seek help can be referred to one of them for a food parcel.

Loaves 'n' Fishes will now be responsible for all furniture and white goods support under a scheme which has helped more than 2,700 people in the last three years.

Cllr Trow welcomed the award of the contract to Loaves 'n' Fishes as a registered charity committed to the social and professional integration of disabled or disadvantaged people.

Among the 50 volunteers working for them, the majority have previously received assistance from the charity themselves.

Many go on to acquire increased employability skills thanks to the charity’s training and support, he said.

Mark Price, CEO at Loaves 'n' Fishes, said: "We're delighted to have got this four year contract and we're going to provide more help for the vulnerable people of Sandwell.

"We also train lots of volunteers so it will provide extra work for them as well.

"We are confident that it is going to be a very productive and positive partnership."