Barnardo’s reports that they are struggling to keep up with the needs of families experiencing “bed poverty” and require assistance.

Barnardo’s reports that they are struggling to keep up with the needs of families experiencing “bed poverty” and require assistance.

Barnardo’s, a children’s charity, reports that support for struggling families in England has not kept pace with the increase in “bed poverty” due to the growing number of people experiencing extreme poverty and the high cost of living.

The article reported that there has been a fourfold increase in requests for council-funded programs that provide new beds or bedding for children in need over the past five years. However, a larger number of these requests are denied, indicating that the programs are facing difficulties in meeting the high demand.

The organization has calculated that over 1 million kids in the UK either have to sleep on the floor or share a bed with family members due to their family’s inability to afford new bed frames and clean moldy linens.

Barnardo’s has advised government officials against removing hundreds of millions of pounds in emergency assistance funding by the end of March. This funding is crucial for families living in extreme poverty who struggle to afford essential items such as beds, furniture, cookers, food, and energy.

In 2021, the government implemented the household support fund (HSF) to assist families facing financial challenges in meeting their expenses. To date, this fund has provided a total of £2 billion, distributed through local authorities, and is utilized for providing food and energy vouchers, replacing furniture and household appliances, and offering grants to food banks.

English councils spent more than a third of the £850m allocated to them last year as part of the fund on food vouchers for families eligible for free school meals during the school holidays, suggesting that the removal of the HSF could also trigger a fresh holiday hunger crisis.

There is bipartisan agreement to prolong the HSF for a minimum of one year. Thérèse Coffey, a former Conservative secretary for welfare, and Will Quince, a former welfare minister, are both in favor of Labour’s Stephen Timms’ proposal to preserve the program, as discussed in a recent parliamentary session.

The ministers are currently considering ending the scheme, but Barnardo’s has expressed concern that it would result in a significant shortage of assistance for those in crisis. Charities and local authorities, many of which are facing financial difficulties themselves, would not be able to make up for the deficit.

A recent survey by the Local Government Association revealed that over 80% of councils have seen an increase in hardship within their jurisdiction in the past year. Additionally, nearly 75% anticipate this trend to continue in the next 12 months. Pete Marland, head of the association’s economy and resources board, warned that without an immediate extension of the HSF program for at least a year, there is a risk of more households facing financial struggles, homelessness, and poverty.

The government’s program for assisting with cost of living expenses is set to expire soon, with a final payment of £299 scheduled for this month. Advocates are concerned that resources for families with low incomes will suddenly decrease in a few weeks, during a time when essential expenses such as food and energy remain unreasonably high.

A study conducted by End Furniture Poverty in November revealed that approximately 66% of funds for local government welfare assistance were provided by the HSF in 2022-23. This implies that removing the HSF would greatly harm the accessibility and extent of local welfare assistance programs, which have significantly decreased due to budget cuts in recent times.

Barnardo’s submitted a freedom of information request to English councils and discovered a significant increase in requests for emergency assistance with children’s beds, rising from 4,000 to 18,000 between 2018 and 2023. However, the percentage of successful applications decreased from 53% to 41% during this time frame.

Lynn Perry, the CEO of Barnardo’s, stated that despite the HSF being implemented, local councils are still facing difficulties meeting the increasing demand for assistance. However, the fund is set to expire in two months and if it does, it will greatly impact the ability of councils to provide essential aid, such as beds and bedding, to children who deserve a comfortable night’s rest.

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions stated that they have allocated more than £2 billion to the household support fund in the past two years. Currently, almost £800 million has been distributed to families with children to assist with living expenses.

“The current fund is available up until March 2024 as part of wider cost of living support worth on average £3,700 per household, including raising benefits by 6.7% from April and increasing the local housing allowance.”