Applications to local authority crisis funds for help with beds and bedding for children have more than quadrupled in five years, according to analysis by Barnardo’s.
The charity found that while applications have rocketed fourfold, the success rate of those applications had fallen as local authorities struggled to keep up with demand.
Barnardo’s sent Freedom of Information requests to 151 local authorities in England, asking for the total number of applications to their crisis services for beds and bedding for children they had received, and how many were successful, over the last five years.
In 2018/2019 there were 4,316 requests for beds and bedding for children - of which 2,294 were successful (53%).
However, by 2022/23 this had risen to 17,534 applications, of which 7,227 were successful (41%). It means at least 10,000 children and families who asked for help providing beds and bedding for their children, were turned down.
On average, local authorities received 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.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Lynn Perry MBE, 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 Support Fund is a key part of the social security system designed to provide practical emergency support (e.g. essentials items, food, heating) to people experiencing severe financial hardship, via their local authority.
The fund accounts for 62% of all local welfare spending. But it is due to end in March 2024, creating a massive hole in crisis support if it is not renewed.
Barnardo’s has written to the Chancellor today alongside representatives from more than 120 other organisations including The Children’s Society, The Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and Step Change Debt Charity calling for an urgent extension to the fund. The charities warn of the ‘devastating consequences’ for families facing hardship if the fund is not extended.
Barnardo’s runs a joint project with Birmingham Voluntary Service Council which supplies beds and bedding to children referred to the service by schools. The scheme is funded with the Household Support Fund, so will end in March if the fund is not extended.
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.”
Lynn Perry MBE, Barnardo’s CEO, added:
“Bed poverty is just one aspect of child poverty, yet it starkly illustrates the challenges faced by families who can’t afford the essentials because they are struggling to pay their bills or feed their children.
“We’re urgently calling for a commitment to increase and extend the Household Support Fund before it ends in March, as well as a long-term strategy for local crisis support in England, to help alleviate the pressure on families.”