The Dean of St Paul’s has backed a charity hoping to provide 500 beds to disadvantaged children who have been forced to sleep on the floor or share with family members.
Referencing the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ who had “no crib for a bed”, the Reverend Andrew Tremlett wrote that it was not far different from the challenges faced by families across the UK during the cost-of-living crisis.
The Christmas appeal, which has been backed by The Independent, is two-thirds of the way to reaching its target just one week after launching.
As a result of readers’ generosity, £62,559 has been raised for the Leeds-based organisation Zarach, which means 348 children will get a bed this Christmas.
Our appeal comes as a recent report by the children’s charity Barnardo’s revealed 11 per cent of children in the UK are without a proper bed, causing a knock-on effect on their mental wellbeing and performance in school.
Writing for The Independent, the Very Revd said: “At its heart, the Christmas story is about a child, born away from home, with nowhere to lay his head. The shocking report from Barnardo’s – No Crib for a Bed – spells out the crisis affecting some 849,000 children and young people, who do not have a satisfactory bed for themselves.
“It is why campaigns, like the one Zarach is mounting, supported by this newspaper, are so important. They move us from awe at the birth of the child of Bethlehem, for whom there was ‘No Crib for a Bed’, to action in the here and now.”
Founded in 2017 by Bex Wilson, a deputy headteacher who witnessed firsthand the impact of bed poverty on her young pupils, Zarach hopes to eradicate bed poverty for good.
Statistics taken from the last 12 months show that 31.13 per cent of children it supports have fallen on hard times due to the mental health of either one or both of their parents.
Meanwhile, domestic abuse is the cause behind 23.74 per cent of Zarach’s referrals, with debt concerns listed at 28.11 per cent and issues with benefits taking up 18.09 per cent of cases.
Other causes given to the charity are issues accessing public funds (8.46 per cent) and being the victim of violent crime (3.79 per cent), while nearly four per cent of those it supports are asylum seekers and refugees.
By linking up with more than 500 primary and secondary schools in the northwest of England, Zarach receives referrals from teachers who have become aware of financial difficulties at home or have noticed a lack of focus in class.
Once referred, volunteers and family liaison workers at Zarach will conduct a phone call and home visit with each family, to ensure that their right needs are met.
The children supported by our Christmas appeal will then receive bed frames, a mattress, duvets, pillows, colourful pyjamas and toiletries, as well as a reading book and chocolate treats.
Since being established, the charity has delivered 7,019 beds but has witnessed a dramatic increase over the last year as the cost of living crisis pushes more families into financial difficulty.
It is now estimated that one in four children live in relative poverty, with a recent Barnardo’s study finding that 187,000 families have been unable to wash their children’s bedding in the last 12 months due to the cost of washing and drying.
After surveying 1,049 parents and 1,013 children aged between eight and 17, it found that 20 per cent of children without a bed felt tired at school while one in 12 parents said their children were “tired all the time” due to a lack of sleep.
The charity currently operates from a large warehouse in Leeds and several smaller hubs in the north-west, with beds being delivered across Bradford, Huddersfield and Liverpool. It hopes however to expand in the coming years, with a vision of providing 1,000 beds each week across areas of greatest need.
After fleeing her abusive ex, one mother-of-five was left homeless and was forced to share blow-up airbeds with her young children before they were referred to Zarach for support.
“When you see children who don’t have a good night’s sleep, you can see that they really, really struggle throughout the day,” she told The Independent. “It gives them a disadvantage being unable to focus on things compared to other children.”
Zarach’s CEO Andy Peers said: “Our mission is to end child bed poverty in England but there’s a reason we want to end child bed poverty; it’s to give children the opportunity to engage at school. Everybody recognises that education is a really clear way to break that future cycle of poverty.”
With the support of local companies and donors, each of Zarach’s bed bundles only cost £180, with families also receiving a £30 supermarket voucher to provide a Christmas meal.
Geordie Greig, editor-in-chief of The Independent, said: “The Independent is proud to support Zarach’s campaign. It’s shocking that so many children do not have a bed to call their own, and it’s important to come together to help put that right.”
Lynn Perry MBE, Barnardo’s chief executive said: “Bed poverty is just one aspect of child poverty, yet it starkly illustrates the challenges faced by families not having enough money to afford the essentials needed to raise happy and healthy children.
“Families in crisis are having to prioritise essentials such as food, heating and electricity over things like replacing mouldy bedding or fixing a rotten or broken bed. Children are sharing beds and sleeping on the floor, all of which is affecting their development, attendance at school and their mental health.
“We are pleased The Independent is highlighting this issue and helping to address it in the run up to Christmas, sadly a difficult time for many.”
To donate to our Christmas appeal, click here.
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