After a staggering response from readers, this publication has helped raise £90,000 in less than two weeks to help improve the lives of impoverished youngsters who have, until now, been forced to sleep on the floor or share a bed with family members.
The shocking campaign touched a raw nerve, with the Dean of St Paul’s intervening to talk about the tragedy of children suffering at a time when they should all have a “crib for a bed”.
After learning of the campaign, the CEO of Nationwide Debbie Crosbie made a generous donation on behalf of the building society, buying almost 150 beds for children in need and helping us hit our goal to support the charity Zarach in its mission.
Almost 900,000 children in the UK do not have a proper bed and are forced to sleep on the floor or sofa, or share with family members, in a shameful indictment of the state of bed poverty in our country.
Ms Crosbie said: “We’re shocked that almost 900,000 children across the UK will be without a bed this Christmas and that the problem is getting worse.
“By helping The Independent close the gap and hit their target of 500 beds, we hope this goes some way to helping struggling families at this time of year.”
The shocking lack of basic comfort for these youngsters, particularly during the festive period, moved hundreds of people to donate to the campaign, resulting in 500 beds being bought.
The appeal is still open with a £180 donation buying a bed, mattress, duvet, pillows, pyjamas and a hygiene kit for a child in need. They are also given a £30 supermarket voucher for a Christmas meal.
Bex Wilson, a teacher who founded Zarach after witnessing bed poverty at her school, 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.”
After years of austerity cuts and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, bed poverty is blighting the lives of families across the UK, with research showing it has a severe impact on children’s mental wellbeing, as well as their success at school. Research by Barnardo’s found a fifth of children felt tired at school and struggled to concentrate.
Speaking on LBC, The Independent’s editor-in-chief Geordie Greig said: “We all know what it’s like when we get a bad night’s sleep, you have to get up and go to work. This is being endured by the youngest people, the most vulnerable people in our community.
“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.”
In response to a bed donation, one child said they were “overwhelmed” by the generosity of the charity and what their family had received.
“Mum said Christmas has now officially started,” the child said. “It’s a major help, it’s amazing what has been done. Even the two men that delivered in festive outfits.”
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.
Among those who donated were property tycoon Gopichand Hinduja and his daughter Rita Chhabria, who boosted the appeal by funding dozens more beds. The family told The Independent: “It is so sad that so many children have no bed of their own. It is heartbreaking that the very young and vulnerable are not given basic needs.”
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.”
The senior MP added: “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.”
Senior Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: “The Independent’s successful campaign on this issue will make a huge difference for children across the country this Christmas. It’s heartbreaking that in 2023 so many children are left without a bed of their own.”
Founded in 2017, Zarach aims to eradicate bed poverty for good. The charity launched its first national appeal after witnessing a surge in demand over the past 12 months.
To find families in need, Zarach has partnered with more than 500 schools across the north-west of England with teachers helping to identify children in their classroom who are struggling to concentrate or falling asleep.
Once referred to the Zarach, volunteers for the charity have a phone call with the family, before arranging a home visit to take measurements for either a bunk bed or a single bed to be delivered.
They then maintain contact with the school to track the child’s progress, with 76 per cent performing better as a result of the intervention.
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”.
Andy Percival, the principal of Southway school, said: “We see the impact of those kids coming in healthier, happier, calmer and with a sense of wellbeing. It doesn’t solve everything but it is such a significant change.
“That smile you see when you see a child coming into school having had a good night’s sleep is unbelievable – that is why why we do this job.”
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 taking up 18 per cent of cases.
Other causes given to the charity are issues accessing public funds (8 per cent) and being the victim of violent crime (3 per cent). Nearly four per cent of those it supports are asylum seekers and refugees.
In response to a bed donation, one parent said: “I have so much to think about and pay for, food, gas and everything is so expensive that I can’t think about extras. This has been a huge help. Thank you.”
Other parents had been left in tears while schools have reported that children have “never been so happy and excited” to have their own bed and night clothes.
Speaking to The Independent, 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.”
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.
“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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