30% of UK Families Can’t Afford A Bed to Sleep In as Cost of Living Crisis Bites
TEHRAN (FNA)- Considered a form of ‘hidden poverty’, nearly a third (30%) of families in the UK are impacted by bed poverty – meaning they don’t have a comfortable bed to sleep in.
This can lead to people sleeping on sofas or sharing with children or siblings, greatly reducing their quality of sleep, The Metro reported.
As the price of most essential items has increased in recent months, so too has the cost of essential furniture.
Research from charity End Furniture Poverty found 9% of Brits are living without essential furniture items – and the cost of furniture has increased by 50% since 2010 and 35% since 2020.
Clair Donovan, head of policy, research and campaigns at the charity, added, "Living without a bed means you are unable to get a good night’s sleep, which can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems and leave you struggling to function in school, in work, and in your day-to-day life."
"As people struggle to buy food and cover energy bills, they are certainly really struggling to afford furniture," Donovan said, adding, "Much of the crisis support available is now focused on food and fuel so there are few places to turn to for support."
"We urgently need the social housing sector to step up and support more tenants with furniture, and local authorities need to provide more furniture through their crisis schemes such as the Household Support Fund," Donovan added.
Last week End Furniture Poverty launched Time for Bed, a fundraising appeal in Merseyside to give away free beds and cots to under-18s.
Jenny and her two children Polly and Kirsty are some of the first recipients of new beds. Jenny was in need of new furniture after her home was repossessed and the new home she moved to was unfurnished.
After receiving two new beds for her children, Jenny said, "The children have a sense of pride in their bedroom, having nice beds to sleep in, having a bed each to sleep in. But it’s more than just the physical bed."
"It’s the sense of safety and warmth, it’s the belief that there are people who care, something which is quite difficult to believe when one is in a state of despair," she added.
There are a small number of charities which provide beds and bedding to try and tackle bed poverty across the UK.
While End Furniture Poverty’s Time for Bed project focuses on Merseyside, the rest of the work they do is nationwide.
The Sleep Charity also provides support across the UK, and its founder Vicki Beevers called sleep poverty a "pandemic".
She added, "The cost of living crisis is causing the nation to lose sleep and not just because of anxiety and worry – 30% of families nationally are impacted by bed poverty."
"We created a pilot sleep poverty project in South Yorkshire to tackle this pandemic, as it was becoming apparent that we could not improve children’s sleep because they did not have the bare essentials needed such as curtains or even a mattress," she added.
"Getting good quality, adequate sleep is vitally important to support both physical and mental health and it is key that this issue is addressed at a national level," she said.
Sadly the lack of awareness of sleep poverty has impacted charities which tried to help.
The Thanet Iceberg Project in Kent set up its Off The Floor project last year, with a goal to build or provide a bed for all of the estimated 300 children in the district who slept on the floor by the end of 2022.
However the founder of the project confirmed to Metro.co.uk that Off The Floor has been shut down due to a lack of funding – despite being its "busiest ever" project.
People dealing with bed poverty are often also dealing with other difficulties – like Helen, who escaped an abusive relationship and fled with her children without any possessions.
They relied on food banks to eat and a domestic violence charity for clothing, and while another local charity donated furniture including a bed, one of the mattresses was mouldy.
Thankfully The Sleep Charity was able to replace the mouldy mattress with a brand new one.
Helen said, "Beds, especially of good quality, are expensive items and I was apprehensive about how sleeping on a mouldy mattress would impact our health."
"It made a tremendous difference getting into a comfortable bed on a night," she said, adding, "I’m finally getting a good night’s sleep at last – considering the traumatic events we’ve been through, I’m finally feeling so much healthier and better in myself."
The Sleep Charity also helped Carys, single mum of 12-year-old Charlie, who couldn’t afford to buy a replacement for her son’s broken bed because she was made redundant last August.
Carys explained, "When I lost my job I ended up in arrears with my rent and struggled to put food on the table. Buying him a new bed was out of the question."
"I would never have been able to afford one for him," she said, adding, "I’ve noticed a huge difference in him since. I hadn’t realised how poor sleep was affecting him."
"His behaviour has improved, he looks better and is calmer in the daytime. He looks forward to going to bed now," she added.
Bed poverty was discussed in parliament last December, after the founder of charity Zarach submitted a government petition with more than 18,000 signatures calling for a national sleep strategy to be created.
During the debate Lee Rowley, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said a number of different initiatives are in place across three government departments.
The debate was ended with no action taken as Mr Rowley said the government "do not think that a national sleep strategy is the way to go at this time".