£2m campaign to ensure every child under five in South Yorkshire has a bed

A charity which supports families with young children has said children are sleeping in baths because parents can't afford beds.

Baby Basics UK, based in Sheffield, said it heard regular accounts of children enduring poor conditions as a new £2.2million scheme was launched to provide beds for all children in South Yorkshire under the age of five.

Chief executive Cat Ross said: "We are hearing horrendous stories of children sleeping in baths, on mattresses and on sofas."

The Beds for Babies initiative aims to ensure children who need a bed, Moses basket, cot or toddler bed get one.

Ms Ross said: "We know that [the scheme] is not just about the provision of that tangible bed, it's about the housing these people are in, it's about the other support that's needed.

"Our hope is that by the professionals being able to provide that bed via us, that will help to broker that trusted relationship."

(From L- R) Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics UK, South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard and service-user Lina Credit: ITV News

Lina is among those who have been supported by the charity after being referred by a midwife. She said the scheme will make a huge difference.

She said buying a bed would have meant her family "would not have enough money to buy food and to pay our bills".

She added: "Maybe the electricity will cut off or they will cut the water. So to us [the initiative] is amazing."

The £2.2m of funding is for a four-year period. Credit: ITV News

South Yorkshire sees some of the starkest health inequalities in the UK.

South Yorkshire Combined Authority, which is spearheading the scheme, said one in nine newborns in Sheffield required a safe place to sleep last year.

The programme will apply to families who have been referred by certain organisations or agencies.

Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard said: "We know that one in three children are in child poverty across the country. In South Yorkshire, one in five children are in absolute poverty."

Mr Coppard said the issue was part of a "wider problem" in the economy.

He said: "We need to step in to support wherever we can.

"Thats why we put in place the beds for babies scheme, that's why we put help in place for any family that needs it."

Prof Sally Pearse, from Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Research shows that good quality, safe sleep is vital for healthy child development so this initiative is also supporting children’s long-term health and giving them a better start in life. “Parents in many of our communities are struggling with multiple challenges.

"If we can meet an immediate need such as the lack of a safe space for their child to sleep, we start to build trust and create a relationship that enables us to offer further support and help families tackle other challenges they’re facing.”

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