The Independent’s Christmas appeal to buy 500 beds for children forced to sleep on the floor or share with family members has nearly doubled its target thanks to the staggering response from our generous readers and donors.
In just four weeks, Leeds-based charity Zarach received enough money to provide 931 beds over Christmas for children who, until now, had nowhere to sleep.
Our appeal came in the wake of a recent Barnardo’s report, which found that nearly a million children across the UK living in bed poverty were forced to sleep on the floor or sofa or to share with family members.
Among those backing the appeal last month was the Dean of St Paul’s, who penned a touching article speaking of the tragedy of the bed poverty crisis, writing that every child should “have a crib for a bed”, in a reference to the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ.
A donation from the CEO of Nationwide, Debbie Crosbie, also helped us hit our goal in less than two weeks, with the building society providing funds for almost 150 beds.
Costing £180, each bed bundle from Zarach comes with a bed, a mattress, duvet, pillows, pyjamas, toiletries, chocolate treats and a reading book for young children. It also included a £30 food voucher, helping families to buy a Christmas meal.
Bex Wilson, a primary teacher who founded Zarach after witnessing bed poverty at her school, said the donations would “make such a difference to the lives of children”.
She said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have partnered with The Independent and even more delighted to have achieved our Christmas appeal aim to raise funds needed to deliver 500 brand new beds and bed bundles to children experiencing bed poverty before Christmas.
“We’re incredibly proud to be able to make such a difference to the lives of children, giving them the best opportunity to engage at school. Thank you to everyone who has supported our appeal.”
One child who received a bed from Zarach said they were “overwhelmed” by the generosity of the charity and what their family had received.
Another family said they had “never had anything new before”, while others were left in tears at the prospect of having their own bedding and bedclothes.
Founded in 2017, Zarach aims to eradicate bed poverty and has hubs throughout the North West of England. However, after witnessing a huge surge in demand for beds over the last 12 months, it launched its first national appeal.
Years of austerity cuts and the impact of the cost of living crisis have caused bed poverty figures to increase, with research showing it has a severe impact on children’s mental wellbeing and performance in school.
Statistics taken from the last 12 months show that 31 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 per cent of Zarach’s referrals, with debt concerns listed at 28 per cent and issues with benefits at 18 per cent.
To identify families in need, Zarach has partnered with more than 500 schools that provide the charity with referrals, with volunteers then delivering the beds within eight days.
A headteacher at a school in south Leeds, which deals with pupils with behavioural issues, said the impact of the charity had been “game changing”. In order to track each child’s progress, Zarach maintains contact with the school, with 76 per cent reporting a positive change as a result of their intervention.
The Independent’s editor-in-chief Geordie Greig said: “It has been beyond inspiring to see so much generosity help those most in need of the most basic of requirements: a bed for children.
“We have hit a chord across the nation with this terrible blight affecting so many families. I am delighted we have highlighted this injustice in our society, and done a small bit to help alleviate it through the generosity of Independent readers.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “The work by the Zarach charity and The Independent to provide 500 beds to the most vulnerable children in society is a huge contribution to those who need it most.
“This homelessness crisis has left thousands in need of homes, and almost a million children living without a bed of their own. Sleeping in your own bed shouldn’t be a luxury, but so many children are going without.”
Zarach’s CEO Andy Peers said: “Our mission is to end child bed poverty in England, but there’s a reason we want to do so: 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.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies