Soaring bills and food prices during the cost-of-living crisis aren’t the only cause of insomnia.
A form of ‘hidden poverty’, almost a third (30%) of families in the UK suffer from bed poverty – meaning they don’t have a comfortable bed to sleep in.
This can lead to people sleeping on sofas or sharing them with children or siblings, significantly affecting their sleep quality.
As the prices of most essential items have increased in recent months, the cost of essential furniture has also increased.
Research by charity End Furniture Poverty found that 9% of Britons live without essential pieces of furniture – and the cost of furniture has risen 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 not being able to sleep well at night, which can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems and result in not being able to works more properly.” at school, at work and in everyday life.
“While people are struggling to buy groceries and cover their energy bills, they certainly also have great difficulty affording furniture.”
“Much of the available crisis aid is now focused on food and fuel, leaving few places to go for assistance.”
“We urgently need to step up the social housing sector and support more tenants with furniture, and local authorities need to provide more furniture through their crisis programs like the Household Support Fund.”
Last week, End Furniture launched Poverty Time for Bed, a Merseyside fundraiser to give free beds and cots to under 18s.
Jenny* and her two children, Polly* and Kirsty*, are among the first recipients of new beds. Jenny needed new furniture after her house was confiscated and the new home she moved to was unfurnished.
After getting two new beds for her kids, Jenny said, “The kids are proud of their bedroom because they have nice beds to sleep in and everyone has a bed to sleep in. But it’s more than just the physical bed.”
“It’s a sense of security and warmth, it’s a belief that there are people who care, something that’s hard to believe in a state of desperation.”
There are a small number of charities that provide beds and bedding to help combat bed poverty across the UK.
While End Furniture Poverty’s Time for Bed project is focused on Merseyside, the rest of the work is nationwide.
The Sleep Charity is also providing support across the UK, and its founder, Vicki Beevers, has described sleep deprivation as a “pandemic”.
She added: “The cost of living crisis is leaving the country not just stricken with fear and worry – bed poverty affects 30% of families nationwide.”
“We launched a sleep deprivation pilot in South Yorkshire to help tackle this pandemic as it turned out we were unable to improve the children’s sleep because they didn’t have basic necessities such as curtains or even a mattress. ”
“Good and adequate sleep is vital to physical and mental health and it is vital that this issue is addressed at the national level.”
Unfortunately, the lack of awareness of sleep deprivation has had an impact on charities that have tried to help.
The Thanet Iceberg Project in Kent launched its Off The Floor project last year with the aim of building or providing a bed for every estimated 300 children in the district who slept on the floor by the end of 2022.
However, the project’s founder confirmed to Metro.co.uk that Off The Floor was closed due to a lack of funding – despite being the “busiest project ever”.
People struggling with bed poverty often struggle with other difficulties as well — like Helen*, who escaped an abusive relationship and fled with her children without possessions.
They relied on a domestic violence charity for food and clothing, and while another local charity donated furniture, including a bed, one of the mattresses was moldy.
Luckily, The Sleep Charity was able to replace the moldy mattress with a brand new one.
Helen said: “Beds, especially good quality ones, are expensive items and I was afraid of the impact sleeping on a moldy mattress would have on our health.”
“It made an enormous difference to get into a comfortable bed at night.”
“I can finally get a good night’s sleep – given the traumatic events we’ve been through, I finally feel a lot healthier and better.”
The Sleep Charity also helped Carys*, single mother of 12-year-old Charlie*, who couldn’t afford to buy a replacement bed for her son’s broken bed after being laid off last August.
Carys explained, “When I lost my job, I fell behind on my rent and struggled to put food on the table.” Buying him a new bed was out of the question.
“I could never have afforded one for him.”
“I’ve noticed a big difference in him since then.” I hadn’t noticed how poor sleep affected him.
‘His behavior has improved, he looks better and is calmer during the day.’ He now looks forward to going to bed.’
Bed poverty was discussed in Parliament last December after the founder of the charity Zarach submitted a government petition with more than 18,000 signatures calling for the creation of a national sleep strategy.
During the debate, Lee Rowley, parliamentary undersecretary for housing, housing and communities, said there were a number of different initiatives underway in three government departments.
The debate ended with no action taken as Mr Rowley said the Government “doesn’t think a national sleep strategy is the way to go at this point”.
*Names have been changed.
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