When a local family is struggling to provide everything they need for their baby, their health visitor or children’s centre can refer them to Baby Bank, and we provide practical help as quickly as possible.
We don’t have direct contact with the family, so we rely hugely on the judgement of our referral partners to suggest the items that would make their life that bit easier. It’s a really important relationship and any feedback we receive is used to develop our service so we can help more families in need.
We recently caught up with one of our health visitors, Harriet Jolly, who works in a Bristol health centre. Harriet explains her role and how Baby Bank has helped some of the families she works with.
You can watch the interview with Harriet here, or read the transcript below.
The privilege of being a health visitor is that we work with lots of different families. And this area in particular is one of real contrast. I see families who are well prepared – they’ve been planning to have children for a while, they’ve thought about all the things they need and they often have a good support network around them.
At the other end of the spectrum, I meet families who were just not expecting to be in the position of having a new baby. They might be living in emergency accommodation; they may be asylum seekers; some of them are single parents living in refuges.
Many of the parents living in temporary accommodation don’t have any of the items their baby needs. And they often have nobody nearby who they can ask for help; some don’t know anyone else in Bristol. Asylum seekers are often unable to find employment and it’s just really hard for these families to access the support that they and their children need.
Baby Bank has been brilliant because it lets us help families on a practical level. As health visitors we meet these families in their own environments and we can see what they’re struggling with, so to be able to turn up with the essential items they’re lacking is great.
It’s a whole range of equipment and supplies, including clothes, high chairs and all the basic essentials that a new family needs. But one of the most important things Baby Bank provides is age-appropriate toys – we can underestimate the vital role that toys play in a child’s learning and development. Baby Bank has sometimes even been able to provide toys for an older sibling, which is always appreciated.
The families are always really grateful for the things we’ve brought them. One of my favourite comments was when I took a bag of clothes to a single mum with two young children. She was really delighted when she realised there was a dress in there that her little girl could wear on her birthday. It showed how much that bag of clothes meant to her, that she could now dress her daughter nicely on her special day.
If you or somebody you know needs help from Baby Bank, speak to your health visitor, midwife or other children’s professional, and ask for a referral.
If you’d like to join our fantastic team of Baby Bank volunteers, email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are various flexible roles available, from sorting clothes to helping with our social media.
Finally if you’re having a clear-out of baby items, don’t forget to check our current wish list and see if there’s anything we’re short of!