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Let’s talk about Bed Poverty

I’ll never forget the first time I supported a family to move into temporary accommodation when they had become homeless. This was many years ago, before working in education, when I supported families affected by homelessness. 

In my role, I had already been accessing funding for the family in order that they could purchase larger items of furniture and white goods. However, it was only as we stepped together over the threshold that I realised my naivety – how could I have been so foolish as to assume the property they had been given would have simple items such as flooring, carpets, curtains and lightbulbs? Back to the drawing board I went.

I remembered this as I recently read the following article:

Beds donated to stop children sleeping on floor in Wolverhampton – BBC News

Two charities in Wolverhampton have teamed up with the council in order to provide free beds to families who cannot afford them. Within 2 months of launching the ‘Good Night Project’, 65 beds had already been donated, many of them children’s beds and cots. On the flipside of this, 200 requests had been made for the beds, by families in need.

Bed poverty” is a term used to describe a situation where a person does not have access to a bed or enough income to afford necessary items.

Many of us will be aware of the children we work with who perhaps live in overcrowded homes, or do not have access to the internet. Yet it may come as a surprise to us if we knew the amount of our pupils and students who may come to school each day having spent the night sleeping on a cold, hard, floor.

Thinking back to the temporary accommodation I mentioned at the start of this blogpost, that floor was either concrete or floorboards, sometimes still with the carpet gripper rods attached – hazardous for young children but also, a cruel reminder of the carpet that had once been there, before being ripped out.

We know that statistically, approximately 30% of children in the UK are considered to be living in poverty and many of us will be aware of the impact this has on the tired, cold and hungry children sitting in our classrooms. 

So, what can we do?

Well, of course it is important for us to lobby the government to make changes that prioritise families living in these conditions. The ‘Good Night Project’ and others like it do an incredible job, but they should not have to exist. Contacting our MP and ensuring they understand the conditions our students live in can help.

Closer to home and on a more practical note, there are simple changes we can make to support our families: Here are some things to consider:

  • Have links on your website to organisations such as The Good Night Project, organisations that provide free school uniform, warm banks and food banks. Many families may not wish to seek support from school for fear of stigma so empower them to access support themselves.
  • Benefits Calculator – entitledto – independent | accurate | reliable ‘Entitled to’ is a great website that enables families and professionals working to support them, to work out if they are entitled to any benefits. There is also a link to cost-of-living help for those already in receipt of benefits.
  • Talk to children about this! Mention it in assemblies and tutor times. It is so important that we ‘start the conversation’ so children know that we know this is an issue. It is much harder for a child to approach their teacher and say ‘I need help, I don’t have a bed to sleep on’ than it is for them to say ‘You know what we talked about in assembly? Well, that’s me at the moment’.
  • Train staff to notice when something may be an issue. Falling asleep in class used to be cause for behaviour sanctions. Now, thankfully, we have moved on and understand that this is often a sign that a child is vulnerable and could benefit from Early Help.

For more information about charities in your area that fight against Bed Poverty, you can click on this link:

BBC One – Morning Live – Bed Poverty Resources