Councils’ ‘crisis funds’ for children’s bedding are overwhelmed

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A UK children’s charity says applications to local authority ‘crisis funds’ for help with beds and bedding for children have more than quadrupled in five years.

Barnardo’s has also revealed that despite this huge increase in requests, the success rate has fallen, as local councils struggle to keep up with the demand for financial help.

The findings are based on Freedom of Information requests sent by Barnardo’s to over 150 local authorities in England, which asked for the total number of applications and responses to their crisis services for beds and bedding for children.

Barnardo’s says that in 2018/2019 there were 4,316 requests for beds and bedding for children, and of these 2,294 were successful (53 per cent).  But by 2022/23 this had risen to 17,534 applications, of which just 7,227 (41 per cent) were successful.

The upshot is that at least 10,000 requests from children and families for help providing beds and bedding for their children had to be turned down. Local authorities received, on average, around 180 crisis requests for help with children’s beds and bedding in 2018-19. By 2022-23 this had risen to 450 requests, an increase of 270.

‘Time is running out’

Lynn Perry MBE, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, said: “Our figures show the increasing pressure being put on local councils to provide crisis support – with applications for beds or bedding for children quadrupling in just a few years.

“And yet, even with the Household Support Fund in place, councils are struggling to keep up with demand. That fund is due to end in two months’ time – if it does, it will leave a huge hole in the ability of councils to provide help – including providing beds or bedding for children who deserve a decent night’s sleep. Time is running out.”

The Household Fund is, says Barnardo’s, a ‘key part’ of the social security system which is designed to to provide practical emergency support (such as essentials like food and heating) to people experiencing severe financial hardship, via their local authority.

Barnardo’s has now joined forces with over 100 other stakeholders, including The Children’s Society, The Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and Step Change Debt Charity to write to the government, demanding an extension to the fund.

‘A huge hole’

Kelly, is a mum of three children aged six, four and 15 months from Birmingham who has been helped by the service. Kelly used to be a care worker for the elderly and also worked in supermarkets, but had to give up work due to back and hip pain and now receives disability benefits. The family live in a small one-bedroom flat. This month the family received a bunk bed, and single bed, along with bedding and pyjamas from the service.

She said: “I live in a one-bed maisonette, so space is limited. Before I received the new beds it was a nightmare. My eldest was on a mattress on the floor, my middle child in a toddler’s bed that he would soon outgrow, and the baby was in a bedside cot.

My eldest hated being on the floor and came into my bed but used to end up sleeping over me and we both had disturbed sleep

Having to breastfeed my baby in bed in the middle of the night was a real challenge. Everyone would disturb the other and they suffered from a lack of sleep.

“I developed back and hip pain before having the children and then had 14 miscarriages and needed three caesareans – so my body’s been through a lot of wear and tear and my mobility has been affected. I would love to be able to be better and working again to provide for the children, but it’s just not an option.

“Money is so tight nowadays. I never in my entire life thought I’d reach the stage where I’d have to rely on food parcels – but I’m no longer suffering in silence and worrying about the shame – I’m now accepting this help.

“Receiving the new beds was such a relief – the kids are so excited about the bunk beds and love them. They are much more comfortable and peaceful at night and get a decent night’s sleep.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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