The shocking statistics on child poverty as The Independent raises £128k to support bed charity

An estimated 4.2 million children live in poverty across the UK

Holly Evans
Sunday 24 December 2023 23:54 GMT
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Zarach appeal: Geordie Greig on the 'phenomenal' difference giving beds to children makes

Child poverty in the UK has dramatically increased in the UK in recent years, as more and more families struggle in the wake of austerity cuts, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

With 281,000 households having to choose between heating, food and purchasing a bed, it is estimated that nearly a million children either sleep on the floor or on a sofa as a result of bed poverty.

As a result, The Independent partnered with Leeds-based charity Zarach which provides beds, mattresses and duvets for disadvantaged children who are struggling with their education and mental wellbeing due to a lack of sleep.

In less than two weeks, our campaign, which featured on BBC Breakfast and LBC, succeeded in raising £128,000 to purchase more than 500 beds that will be delivered ahead of Christmas Eve, and 200 afterwards.

Founded in 2017, Zarach has witnessed an enormous increase in the demand for beds over the last 12 months, with 31 per cent of families giving the reason as mental health issues while 23 per cent are victims of domestic abuse.

The latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that 4.2 million children live in relative poverty, an increase of 350,000 from the previous year.

Zarach hopes to eradicate bed poverty and provides disadvantaged children with single or bunk beds

Of those, 45 per cent were in families with the youngest child under the age of five, while 44 per cent were from single-parent households.

The Households Below Average Income report also found that 36 per cent of families where someone has a disability were also living in poverty and that 2.7 million children were classified as living in deep poverty. In the latest academic year, two million children have been eligible for free school meals.

In a recent report published by child organisation Barnardo’s, researchers found that 894,000 children in the UK were without a proper bed, and were having to share with family members or sleep on the floor.

In polling collected by YouGov, 20 per cent of children surveyed felt tired at school and 13 per cent struggled during physical activities, while one in 12 parents said their children were “tired all the time” due to not having their own bed to sleep in.

It also found that over 187,000 families had not been able to change their children’s bedding in the last 12 months due to cost of washing and drying, while 336,000 families have been unable to afford to replace or repair broken beds.

In order to identify families struggling with a lack of available bedding, Zarach has formed close relationships with over 500 schools that provide them with a referral. After conducting a home visit, volunteers deliver a bed frame, duvet, mattress, pillows, pyjamas and a hygiene kit to their property within eight days.

Our Christmas appeal with Zarach has raised money for 500 beds

“We look at areas where unfortunately child poverty levels are above 30 per cent,” their CEO Andy Peers said. “We think we can have a good impact if we can work in areas with a sizable population.

“We look at child poverty levels and then child population levels and because of the work other amazing organisations have done, we can then make an estimation on how many children we think might be in bed poverty.”

While one parent broke down in tears at being able to provide her child with a bed, others have said it has been a “huge weight” off their shoulders. “I have so much to think about and pay for, food, gas and everything is so expensive that I can’t think about extras,” one parent said. “This has been a huge help.”

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