Labour MP Frank Field, former Labour welfare reform minister, said it was a “desperate situation”.
“All too many families are being crippled financially by the cost of basic items for their babies – on top of their rent, utilities, and food,” he said. “Above all else, this shows us how the face of poverty is changing. It is hard-up families who are paying the price for the economic upheaval and austerity of the past decade.”
The growth of baby banks comes as more and more healthcare professionals such as midwives, health visitors and social workers refer hard-up mums to them. Sophia Parker, 40, is the founder of Little Village baby bank which has outlets at Camden and Wandsworth in London. She estimates one in five of the people they help are working or have a partner in work – but still cannot make ends meet. Sophia, formerly a strategy director at the NSPCC, said: “Even as someone who understands what’s going on in relation to poverty in this country, I’ve been shocked by the level of need we’ve uncovered.
“Last week we supported a mum who was sleeping on the floor of her neighbour’s house while her baby slept on the sofa, and a mum who has been rationing nappies because she couldn’t afford the next packet.” In a particularly shocking incident earlier this year, mum-of-three Sophia tells how she helped provide basic care equipment to a homeless mum who had given birth on the streets.
“That was a real low point,” she says. “People always think of poverty as this thing that happens somewhere else, but actually it’s right here on our doorstep.
“There are kids without a safe place to sleep. Kids who haven’t a warm coat or are in shoes two sizes too small. Kids whose lives are blighted by poverty. It’s a hidden crisis and we are a sticking plaster.” Little Village has handed out more than £1million worth of kit to 2,000 desperate families since they launched in 2016, including 30,000 nappies, 753