Edinburgh schoolchildren bullied due to 'hygiene poverty'

Teachers have reported an 80 per cent increase in number of children coming to school unwashed

By Shona Elliott
Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 7:30 am
Friends help Polly Heine (middle) pack up 'hygiene parcels' containing soap, deodorant and sanitary towels for people struggling in the city.
Friends help Polly Heine (middle) pack up 'hygiene parcels' containing soap, deodorant and sanitary towels for people struggling in the city.

An Edinburgh charity has launched a new campaign in city schools to educate pupils about hygiene poverty as teachers report a rise in bullying around the issue.

Eighty per cent of teachers in the UK say they have seen an increase in the numbers of children coming to school unwashed in the last five years, according to research from the poverty prevention charity The Hygiene Bank.

The same research revealed that nearly half of these teachers report an increase in bullying because of hygiene issues.

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In response to these findings, The Hygiene Bank has launched a campaign with Edinburgh schools to educate pupils about poverty.

The campaign will explain to students why some children do not have access to cleaning products such as toothbrushes and how to show empathy in these situations.

Working closely with primary and high schools across the Capital this campaign will run until Sunday, September 20, 2020, as part of National Hygiene Week taking place this week.

As well as offering education around hygiene poverty The Hygiene Bank sources, packs and distributes cleaning parcels containing soap, toothpaste and other basic supplies to struggling households in the Capital.

Project coordinator Polly Heine said the charity has experienced a huge jump in requests during the pandemic.

She said: “We have seen a huge increase in demand for our services with people losing their jobs or having their hours cut.

“Unfortunately we expect the demand to continue to rise as the furlough scheme runs out in October and more job losses are anticipated.”

The charity worker went on to say that the team has noticed a high rise among families with young children.

She said: “We have seen a particular increase in hygiene poverty in families with young children.

“With children at home instead of school, juggling childcare and work has been an enormous challenge for parents as well as the added financial strain which has pushed more people further into poverty.

“We hear of families having to use one toothbrush between all of them or parents having to reuse nappies as they have to make the difficult decision between feeding their family and keeping them clean.

“With the additional costs of face coverings now being compulsory in schools and some children being asked to bring in their own hand sanitiser, families are being forced to make sacrifices to ensure they keep their children and communities safe.”

National Hygiene Week is the first of its kind and the charity say's it;s goal is to “begin a conversation about hygiene poverty" starting in city schools.

Polly said: “As part of National Hygiene Week, we’re asking everyone to join us by saying #BOGOF to hygiene poverty.

“Simply look for buy one get one free deals on toiletries and hygiene essentials when you shop. Keep one for yourself, donate the other, then share your donation using #BOGOF on your social media to spread the word that hygiene poverty is unjust.”

You can donate these items in the charities drop off points in Boots, 101-103 Princes Street EH2 3AA and 16-20 Earl Grey Street EH3 9BN.

To learn more about how to get involved in the anti-bullying campaign click here.

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