The independentA Christmas appeal to buy 500 beds for children forced to sleep on the floor or share with family members has almost doubled its target thanks to the amazing response from our generous readers and donors.
In just four weeks, Leeds-based charity Zarach has received enough money to provide 931 beds at Christmas for children who until now had nowhere to sleep.
Our appeal comes in the wake of a recent Barnardo's report which found that almost one million children across the UK living in bed poverty were forced to sleep on the floor or sofa or shared with family members.
Among those who backed the appeal last month was the Dean of St Paul's, who wrote a moving article talking about the tragedy of the bed poverty crisis, writing that every child should “have a cot for a bed”, in a reference to the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ.
A donation from Nationwide CEO Debbie Crosbie also helped us reach our target in less than two weeks, with the builder providing funds for nearly 150 beds.
Costing £180, each bed bundle from Zarach comes with a bed, mattress, duvet, pillows, pyjamas, toiletries, chocolate treats and a toddler reading book. It also included a £30 food voucher, helping families buy a Christmas meal.
Bex Wilson, a primary school teacher who founded Zarach after seeing bed poverty at her school, said the donations would “make such a difference to children's lives”.
He said: “We are absolutely delighted to have partnered The independent and even happier to have achieved our Christmas target of raising funds needed to deliver 500 brand new beds and bed sets to children experiencing bed poverty before Christmas.
“We are incredibly proud to be able to make such a difference to children's lives, giving them the best opportunity to engage with school. Thank you to everyone who supported our appeal.”
A 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 bedding.
Founded in 2017, Zarach aims to eradicate bed poverty and has hubs across the North West of England. However, after seeing a huge increase in demand for beds over the past 12 months, they launched their first national appeal.
Years of austerity cuts and the impact of the cost of living crisis have seen bed poverty numbers rise, with research showing it has a serious impact on children's mental wellbeing and school performance.
Statistics from the last 12 months show that 31 per cent of the children it supports have had a hard time because of the mental health of either one or both of their parents.
Meanwhile, domestic abuse is the reason behind 23 per cent of Zarach's referrals, with debt concerns cited in 28 per cent and benefits issues in 18 per cent.
To identify families in need, Zarach has worked with more than 500 schools who 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 behavioral problems, said the impact of the charity had been a “game changer”. In order to monitor the child's progress, Zarach maintains contact with the school, with 76 percent reporting a positive change as a result of his intervention.
Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said: “The work of the charity Zarach and The independent Providing 500 beds to society's most vulnerable children is a huge contribution to those who need it most.
“This homelessness crisis has left thousands in need of homes and nearly a million children living without a bed of their own. “Sleeping in your own bed shouldn't be a luxury, but so many kids don't.”
Zarach chief executive Andy Peers said: “Our mission is to end bed poverty in England, but there's a reason we want to end bed poverty. is to give children the opportunity to engage with school. Everyone recognizes that education is a really clear way to break this future cycle of poverty.”