Little Village ‘Baby bank’ warns of isolation suffered by struggling parents

Demand for help has doubled since last year

Friday, 27th November 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Jacquie Richardson and Sophia Parker Little Village

Jacqui Richardson and Little Village founder Sophia Parker at its Somers Town hub

A CHARITY set up to help provide families in need with clothes, nappies and cots has seen a doubling in demand this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sophia Parker, who founded Little Village in 2016, said she was worried about how parents were struggling in isolation. “We really see how much of an effect struggling financially has on parents’ mental health,” she told the New Journal.

“If you don’t have that sense of financial security, it’s going to be really challenging.” She added: “There are families who have suffered from a deep sense of isolation, handling lockdown with small children with no garden and shared facilities. If you’re cooking in a shared kitchen, and worrying about putting yourself and your baby at risk, it’s going to have a real impact.”

Little Village, which has a base in Ossulston Street, Somers Town, is similar to a food bank and parents referred to it can get essentials needed to care for their babies and young children. During the lockdown it collected donations and helped get them to those most in need.

More than 1,000 families in Camden have been helped this year, and Ms Parker said she expected the same levels of demand to continue. Three in 10 of its referrals are the result of Covid-related unemployment or economic hardship.

“Covid is having an impact on families who are already struggling, that’s the whole point,” she said. “There’s an issue with low income. Two-thirds of families we support are having problems with low-income rather than unemployment.

“Being in work is not enough any more, the wages are just too low. Particularly in London where housing costs are so high. The welfare system doesn’t offer them enough support either.”

Ms Parker was a guest speaker at Monday’s full council meeting for the latest debate on Camden’s response to the pandemic. The charity has handed out 1,579 cots, 829 buggies and 1,919 coats to families across London this year. Overall it has given out 6,000 bundles, double that of last year. “We never want them to feel that they are getting a hand-out,” said Ms Parker. “The things we give out are a gift offered with love from one family to another.

“The dignity of choice is at the heart of what we do…it’s part of being human. Our belief is there are times in life when we do all need help, and sometimes are not be able to afford [things].”

The baby bank is now running a Christmas campaign to bring “a bit of joy” to families. The bundles it delivers now always include a “treat” for parents, but Little Village is hoping to raise donations to buy vouchers for parents to buy a present for their children.

“What we want to do is bring a bit of joy to the families we support,” said Ms Parker.

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