Since starting volunteering with the Baby Bank Network here in Bristol, many of the people I have spoken to initially hadn’t realised that a need existed. So I decided to do a bit of research and gather some evidence to find out if there really is indeed a need.
What are the Facts?
According to Save the Children, 1.6million children are growing up in severe poverty in the UK. In Bristol, 26.44% of children live in poverty, with 10 out of 35 wards across the city having child poverty rates above 30%. In one ward the figure is almost 60% that’s 3 out of every 5 children (Bristol Child Poverty Strategy 2011-2020).
Why are families finding themselves in such poverty?
People often assume that these children come from families where there is no one in employment. Figures show however that 50% of the children living in poverty actually come from working households. With 1.5million people working in jobs which pay less than the living wage, it’s no wonder families are turning to Baby Banks for help on basic items like clothes and essential equipment. Last year 6,442 babies were born in Bristol, so taking the Bristol Child Poverty figure that 26.44% of children live in poverty in Bristol then the number of potential referrals could be close to 1,700 a year. Remembering that this figure is just for newborn babies and doesn’t include older children.
In a recent news article from the Guardian, Rosalind Bragg, director of the Maternity Action Charity, has not been surprised by the rise in demand in help for new mothers. “The government has axed the health in pregnancy grant, restricted the Sure Start Maternity Grant and frozen Child Benefit. These changes come on top of well documented increases to the cost of living. Families are struggling to make ends meet, they need support not cuts to benefits”.
What are the reasons for referrals in Bristol?
There are lots of different reasons why we get referrals, these have been just some of them:
∙ To help families with multiple births.
∙ Stop social isolation.
∙ To provide basic items to a mother who has no family support nearby.
∙ To provide care essentials for a young baby living in an emergency domestic violence shelter as they had to leave everything but clothes behind.
∙ We provided clothes and toys to a young boy living in a refugee shelter as they were waiting for asylum to be granted so had nothing but Tesco vouchers.
∙ Families living in hostels or moving from a hostel into flat.
In just 2 months, 3 of our referrals requested buggies suitable for twins. Not having a double pram or their existing one being too big to fit on buses, left the mothers feeling socially isolated. One health visitor was so concerned she approached BBN for help and gave the following feedback when our lovely donors answered our plea for help via social media:
“Thanks so much for donating the double buggy, the mum was really grateful, she said it was much lighter and smaller than the one she had. We are now hoping that she will be able to get out of the house more, she is hoping to attend our baby clinic on Wednesday and our baby group on Friday”.
Heartwarming messages of thanks.
So as you can see there is a real need for BBN Bristol and when we help, we receive heartwarming messages back on how it has impacted on the lives of the families that the items were donated to.
“Just wanted to let you know how grateful the family were upon receiving the beautiful selection of toys and mega blocks for their son. He immediately started playing with the blocks and was concentrating and happy for 40 minutes during my visit. It was such a joy to see. The family were extremely grateful and I cannot express to you what a difference these will make for them all. Thank You” Family Support and Outreach Worker at local Children’s Centre
Benefits for Healthcare Professionals.
And it’s not just the families that are seeing the benefits. Health care professionals are also telling us that it is helping them build relationships with the families they care for and gives them personal satisfaction because they can make a bigger difference to their situation.
“Just a message to say thank you, she was in tears when I gave her the stuff this afternoon. Her little girl loves all of the toys especially the baby and pram. It was so lovely to see her so happy! Bringing her the items really built our relationship today, we had a very emotional support session and we are both just really grateful, so please send our gratitude to all the volunteers at baby bank.” Local healthcare professional.
“It’s nice to do something quite constructive. Quite a lot of what we do is signposting and talking, but this is something tangible – which is just brilliant. We see people who need this. There are homes where there is nothing for the children – no toys, toothbrushes and clothes full of holes or too small; donations like this will make a huge difference. In pregnancy our community midwives see women who are really worried about not having things and not being able to provide for their baby. This will really help ease that pressure and enable new mums to enjoy their baby.” Local healthcare professional.
So what will the future bring for Baby Bank Network Bristol?
Well, Higham Childrens Centre, based in North East London received 30 new referrals in their first 3 months. With 19 referrals received in August and 4 already in the first 8 days of September, Baby Bank Network Bristol is well on its way to matching if not beating these figures. Looking further into the future, our friends at Stripey Stork based in Reigate and Banstead, Surrey have just released their yearly figures. With last year receiving 356 referrals, that’s approximately 30 a month.
At Baby Bank Network Bristol we can’t predict exactly how many referrals we will get in our first year but one thing we do know is that we are in for a busy year ahead but we can’t wait.
Charlotee, Team BBN