An estimated 300 children in Thanet are sleeping on the floor, sofas or sharing beds with siblings because families are living below the poverty line.
Data published in September 2021 shows Thanet has the highest number – 5,206 – and proportion -19.4&- of children living in absolute low-income families in Kent.
This is despite a fall of 10% – 606 children – from the previous year.
More than half of the wards in Thanet are within the 20% of wards in Kent with the highest proportion of children in absolute low-income families – defined as in low income before housing costs are added.
Hardest hit are Cliftonville West with 759 youngsters under 16 – or 27.2% – classed as living in absolute low income families, followed by Dane Valley with 536 – 26.9%.
For Newington the figure is 355, or 24.9%, followed by Margate Central with 351, or 23.9%.
For families struggling to survive, particularly amid recent hikes in food and utility costs, making sure their children have their own bed is not always possible.
The knock-on effect is the negative impact on children’s physical and mental health. If they are failing to get a decent night’s sleep, then they are less likely to be able to concentrate in school.
Mattresses or pillows used as a bed and stored on the floor are also more likely to be infested with bugs.
A bid to combat this has been launched on the isle by the Thanet Iceberg Project, run by Alexander Roarke -known just as Roarke- and Ann Newstead who also head up The Kitchen CT9 in Cliftonville.
Off The Floor aims to build wooden beds and provide them to every family in Thanet who needs them.
Roarke said the situation is a ‘scandal’ adding: “The simple premise is that we want to get as many children off the floor as we can by the end of the year.
“We are dealing with social services, schools, refuges and churches to ensure that every child is adequately provided with a bed.
“The council has a duty to house people but when they go to a refuge or temporary accommodation these are often furnished. The issue is when they are moved on it will mostly be to unfurnished accommodation. They may have left their furniture behind or they simply move in with nothing.
“Kids are sleeping on the floor because people are moving into unfurnished homes but have nothing. I have 4 families at the moment in this situation and we believe there are upwards of 300 children without beds (In Thanet).
“We have got a company selling us mattresses for £50 each and we are building the beds. We could get them for roughly the same cost but they are often material divan bases which can get bed bugs. Wooden beds are easier to keep clean.”
Roarke says the idea is for the community to get involved, helping to make the beds or donating their own spare beds.
He said: “This is a community problem and we want people to get involved.
“Families can make a bed – we will give them the materials and instructions – or people can come to our workshop and build one. Companies can use it as a team building event, or if you want to get involved but are on your own we can take your name and when we have three or four people we can put them together.
“Families can sponsor a child ‘Off The Floor’ and companies can take responsibility to get children off the floor.”
Roarke says he is writing to schools to make sure there is a list of every family that has children without a bed.
“Ultimately this is for the benefit of our kids. For every £110 we raise or every bed we make we can take a name off the list and we will keep ticking them off until there are no names left.”
The aim is to raise £20,000 to provide beds and bedding. Other furniture can also be provided trough The Loft, which is another Thanet Iceberg Project.
People are also being asked to nominate a child that they know needs a bed.
Parents-of-four Ann and Roarke have been the driving force behind a number of schemes to help people living below the poverty line, from running the community cafe to Christmas box projects, advice and practical help through the Thanet Iceberg Project, supplying furniture the The Loft and now the Off The Floor scheme