Home Babies needs Inside the UK’s baby banks are preparing for their busiest winter yet

Inside the UK’s baby banks are preparing for their busiest winter yet


A heavily pregnant woman sits in the corner of the Little Village baby bank in Tooting, south London, carefully folding a pile of baby clothes given to her.

She is one of thousands of mothers who will rely on charity this year to give their babies the start of life they deserve.

Like food banks, baby banks provide essential items for parents of young children ages 0-5. Diapers, clothes, strollers, beds, breastfeeding gear, and toys fill every floor space at Petit Village HQ.

Since its launch in 2016, the association has helped some 17,000 children. However, as more and more people go through more difficult times, there is a huge increase in demand.

Tawakalitu Idris, 41, is nearly nine months pregnant and is visiting the baby bank with her husband and daughter in the hope that it will provide her with much-needed supplies for her imminent arrival.

It’s quiet when I walk in and Idris sits calmly in a chair as a volunteer rushes over to collect items for him – there are essentials like clothes and nappies, but also a nursing pillow, a baby bath, a bottle sterilizer, a bed and a stroller.

His little girl chooses school shoes with her father and, delighted as a fist, rushes to her mother to show them. The shoes are used, but in like new condition. It’s something that really matters to the charity, a spokesperson said. They want those who receive the items to feel like they are gifts, rather than second-hand items.

While Idris and her husband both work in NHS hospitals, bringing home around £2,700 a month, they simply cannot afford the supplies they need for their new baby besides l increase in the cost of living.

This woman, who spends her days caring for the elderly in a hospital ward, now relies on the kindness of others to ensure that her baby has the essentials when it is born.

People can browse kids’ clothes and choose what they’d like, rather than just being given a bag of items.

“In terms of income and as things stand now, we don’t have enough to buy good [quality], new baby things,” she tells me. “We have the option of getting it from Little Village and using it, then sending it back when we’re done.”

It can cost up to £1,000 to buy new baby supplies, especially bulky and expensive essentials like beds and pushchairs, and that’s spare cash that many families don’t have at all just not.

With soaring grocery stores and energy bills, along with crippling housing and childcare costs, more and more parents are having to make impossible decisions about where their money should go.

For some families, that means their babies sleep on the floor because they can’t afford a cot. For others, it means staying home because they don’t have money for a stroller.

A study by the University of York estimates that 45 million Britons will be forced into fuel poverty and will struggle to pay their energy bills this winter. Meanwhile, two-thirds of all UK households – or 18 million families – will be pushed into financial hardship by January due to soaring inflation, which has already hit a 40-year high.

“Anecdotally, we see a lot of families where at least one parent is working and the salaries just aren’t enough to keep up with the cost of living, inflation and childcare costs.”

– Emma Gibbs, spokesperson for Little Village

This is the second time that Idris has requested support from Little Village. The first time around, she says, their family was “poor” because she and her husband were unemployed. Someone from their local food bank referred them for help paying their gas and bills, and because she was pregnant at the time, she was told about Little Village and how they could support her. .

Without these services, Idris says it would have caused him “a lot of stress, mentally and physically.”

At 36 weeks pregnant, it’s important for her health and that of her baby that she doesn’t dwell too much on rising costs, but worry is still bubbling in the background. “With the situation with the country right now, it’s really difficult and very mentally stressful,” she said, before adding, “but we just have to take it slow.”

She and her husband are always thinking about budgets, she says, with the top priority being being able to feed and clothe her family. They are already forced to reduce, for example by saving water for washing dishes, and they are teaching their four children that it is more about “what they need, rather than what they want”.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle, but we let them figure out why it’s happening,” she says. These conversations can be difficult when they come home from school and reveal that their friends are going on vacation. “They ask where are we going for the holidays, and we try to let them know that we can’t go because we don’t have enough money.”

<a class=Baby products, toys and towels fill the shelves of Tooting’s Baby Bank.” width=”720″ height=”510″ src=”https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/62ffa0742900007600e6bae5.jpg?cache=RWniiAOpCC&ops=scalefit_720_noupscale”/>
Baby products, toys and towels fill the shelves of Tooting’s Baby Bank.

Dealing with the costs of delivering a baby is hard enough, but when life blesses you with two, it can mean double the expense – and when you have no income at all, things can quickly get ugly. unbearable.

Diana* and her husband are out of work and living with relatives. They are visiting the baby bank today with their young twins – two beautiful baby girls – who were born prematurely in January this year.

The couple are getting more supplies for their babies, who have grown from all the items originally given to them by the baby bank in January.

All four sleep in the living room of a relative’s house in Stockwell, she tells me, because they have no money to afford their own accommodation.

“Life is easy if you have money, but if you don’t, life is hard,” she says.

When their babies were born, the couple relied on food banks, but that support has now stopped and they rely on loved ones to feed them and provide a roof over their heads. “If it hadn’t been for the charity, I might have died,” Diana says.

“Life is easy if you have money, but if you don’t have money, life is hard.”

– Diana, mother of two

Today, they collect extra clothes for their daughters, as well as a walker, diapers, bottle supplies, shoes and toys.

Families are referred to the baby bank for many reasons – whether it’s low income, mental health issues, homelessness or fleeing domestic violence. About 22% of people helped by Little Village are asylum seekers and 5% are victims of trafficking.

Emma Gibbs, spokesperson for the charity, says the first five years of a child’s life are the most expensive time for new parents. It is also the most critical period of a child’s life in terms of development. Baby banks exist to ensure these children get the start in life they deserve.

Many families have nothing, she says. “In winter, we will see children arriving who don’t have coats,” she says. “We see babies whose feet have been cut off because their parents can’t afford to buy a new one.”

Some families – like Diana’s – share beds for warmth. Others limit diapers to one or two a day because they can’t afford to use more. “It’s devastating,” Gibbs says.

“Anecdotally, we see a lot of families where at least one parent is working and the salaries just aren’t enough to keep up with the cost of living, inflation and childcare costs.”

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This year alone, the charity has responded to 2,580 requests for support from struggling parents across London – and it predicts that figure will only rise this winter, when the worst effects of the childcare cost crisis life will be felt.

A survey conducted earlier this year in February, well before the latest tantalizing energy bill forecasts were released, found that 98% of UK baby banks expect 2022 to be their busiest year yet. day, citing the rising cost of living as the main reason.

Little Village plans to support 1,000 more children this year due to the cost of living crisis. It has already supported 2,586 children under five this year through its baby banks across London.

The charity is now urging people to support them with donations of high-quality baby clothes (not stained, broken or worn out), but especially ‘big ticket’ items like prams and beds. Cash donations are also appreciated, as the association needs to buy diaper packs and new mattresses for the beds.

Despite such difficulties, Idris remains quietly convinced that they will overcome all the obstacles they will face in the months to come. “There’s been a lot of struggle over the past few months but, as a person who believes in God, we just have to be grateful for where you are and what you have,” she said.

“So no matter where you are right now, at least when you look back you can say ‘ok, I was able to get through those tough times. I think that’s the most important thing and that’s what will keep us going as a family.

*Some names have been changed to provide anonymity to interviewees