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Life without a bed

The emotional and physical impact of bed poverty is something that no child should experience and it has catastrophic disadvantages for children

A bed provides a child with a safe, comfortable, private and warm place to rest. It is a place to retreat to after a long day; a haven that so many of us take for granted. A bed is a place to dream, to escape, to quieten the mind from the daily worries which are experienced by a child living in poverty.

Having no comfortable place to rest means a child will have disturbed or little sleep with enormous implications for a child’s wellbeing. It can lead to a child experiencing low moods, feeling irritable, emotional and sad. We all know that a bad night’s sleep has a big impact on our mood, motivation and the activities of the following day. For children who must sleep on the floor, or share a bed with a sibling or parent, this is a perpetual cycle of exhaustion. They start each day in the knowledge that it will end with another night of uncomfortable, disturbed sleep.

“The children have been sleeping on the floor with us. Which has been very hard, as a parent having to watch your children go without necessities, you know, things like a bed… having to put their clothes on the floor. It’s just it’s demoralising.”

Not having a bed to sleep in also has a big impact on the physical and neurological development of a child. Having the room to stretch out at the end of the day supports the physical development of a growing child. Sleep is the time when children’s bodies recharge and retain the information they have learned throughout the day. Sleep is when hormones are balanced, blood pressure is lowered, a child’s immune system is regulated and illnesses are fought. A bed is where we retreat to, to rest and recover from illness. Without a place of their own to sleep, a child will remain exhausted and their physical health is impacted.

“We’re all sleeping together on the floor in one room. There are times when there is disturbed sleep, one is not sleeping, the other one is awake, keeping everyone else awake. You know, that’s how it is.”

Without a bed a child is unable to participate in social activities such as sleepovers and may feel embarrassed asking school friends to visit their home, and struggle to form important friendships with their peers. All will lead to further feelings of isolation and solitude that a life in poverty brings.

“My kids obviously don’t invite their friends around. It’s not a normal childhood for them. They feel that it’s embarrassing for them. It’s hard for them to understand why we don’t have these things.”

A bed also brings a sense of independence to a child. It is a private space that is their own. Having to share with a sibling or parent beyond the appropriate age strips a child of the privacy and autonomy that are imperative to a child’s social and emotional development. A child’s mental health suffers.

“My five-year-old daughter came home from school and said the other kids were talking about their bedrooms and what they have in their rooms. It’s hard for her to understand”

Children going to school without a proper night’s sleep are already at a massive disadvantage in terms of education. Sleep helps to develop a child’s memory and solve problems. Tiredness therefore has a huge impact on a child’s ability to concentrate on lessons in school, remember what they have been taught and develop skills to problem solve. Exhaustion will cause a child to struggle with education, which has a lifelong implication on their ability to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation that they experience. It can also lead to poor behaviour which can have an impact on every child in their class.

“An 8-year-old boy in our school doesn’t have his own bed at home. He has huge issues with his self-esteem and struggles to make friends. He is constantly tired in school.” 

We cannot ignore the emotional impact that child bed poverty also has on parents. It is likely that if a family is living without essential furniture, they are also experiencing other forms of poverty such as food or fuel poverty. The daily struggle to provide these things for their children, or having to live without these necessities adds to feelings of desperation, worry and often has a severe impact on a parent’s mental health. Having no other option but to put their child to sleep on the floor each night is a devastating reality for many families and harmful for the emotional wellbeing of parents who are already struggling with a life in poverty.

“I sleep on the hard floorboards and my children top and tail on the mattress as we don’t have beds. The situation is impacting my mental health. It makes me really upset. My children are really sad too. My daughter isn’t eating and my autistic son is frustrated and aggressive a lot of the time” 

It’s time to change this reality for children and families on Merseyside. It’s Time for Bed

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