Hundreds of parents are using Camden baby bank for help
Some children are wearing shoes too small for them
06 February, 2020 — By Samantha Booth
Founder Sophia Park with volunteer Jacquie Richardson
HUNDREDS of parents are turning to a Camden baby bank for help, with cautions a “perfect storm” of low wages, high housing costs and slashed benefits is driving some families into hardship.
Little Village, which has a base at Somers Town Community Centre, provides free items such baby clothes, toys, nappies and cots to families with children aged under 5 who are living below the breadline.
Founder Sophia Parker said some young children are wearing shoes two sizes too small for them, or are sleeping in unsafe circumstances because of cramped conditions.
Since 2017, the number of Camden families supported has risen from 110 to 205 – a rise of 86 per cent. In total, including families from across London, it supported 968 families in 2019 – an increase of 311 per cent from 2017.
Ms Parker said: “Children under five are more likely to be in poverty than any other age. I find that heartbreaking. We know what an impact early years experiences can have on future life and we want every child in London to have that best possible start in life.
“It’s the perfect storm of low employment wages, benefits being cut right to the bone or frozen and in London, it’s impossibly high housing costs. It just doesn’t add up.”
Prams can cost tens if not hundreds of pounds and the cost of nappies can soon add up. In total, 672 cots and 497 buggies have been given out.
Some families are also using food banks and the five week wait for the new Universal Credit payment – which wraps six benefits into one – is pushing them into crisis.
Ms Parker said: “The stories are hard to listen to, some are really difficult to stomach sometimes. There’s a huge variety of circumstances across the families we meet.
“We are seeing families who have no control cushion financially. They are at the mercy of late benefits payments, a change in working hours, a washing machine breaking down which is an unexpected cost.
“We hear of whole families living in single rooms, without easy access to play areas. We had one mum come in a few weeks ago who did not want to put her daughter down on the floor of her hostel room because it was dirty and she had seen rats. You think ‘what is that going to do to a child’s development?’”
She added: “The whole way we talk about poverty massively emphasises the idea of personal responsibility – for example some people say ‘if only somebody worked a little bit harder they wouldn’t be struggling like this’
“Two out of three kids who are in poverty have a parent in work. That says to me that our economy is not working for everyone. No one is choosing to end up in this place.”
Little Village, which also has bases in Wandsworth and Southwark, receive no government funding so all costs – such as new mattresses for cots – are covered by grants or fundraising.
Families have to be referred to the service – for more information visit https://littlevillagehq.org/
Items the bank desperately needs at Camden are changing mats, baby wipes, dental products for under 5s, cots and cot bed sheets and buggies for newborns.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We spend more than £95 billion a year on working age benefits. With Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it and 95% of payments are made in full and on time. We’ve also ended the benefit freeze, meaning millions of people will see their benefits increase from April, with 900,000 seeing a rise in their Local Housing Allowance.”