Baby Bank Norfolk sees rise in demand following Channel 4 documentary
- Credit: Archant
Donations to the Norfolk charity have also increased since the Dispatches programme was aired.
Preparing for a newborn baby is one of the happiest times of expectant parents' lives.
Folding and putting away tiny clothes in your hospital bag, choosing a Moses basket and filling changing table drawers with nappies and wipes.
But for some parents-to-be, it can be a stressful time. A recent Dispatches documentary revealed that referrals to baby banks have increased by over 500% in the last five years in the UK.
'I think that surprised a lot of people,' says Rebecca Marr, current chair of Baby Bank Norfolk.
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The charity supplies basic essentials, such as nappies, newborn clothing and bedding, to families in need.
They also give out toy and book bundles, so that children don't miss out on early contact with books and stimulation from toys.
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Mums and mums-to-be can also be offered support in the form of maternity wear, maternity and breast pads and toiletries.
Since the documentary was shown on Channel 4 last month, Baby Bank Norfolk has received a massive amount of donations.
'It's fantastic,' adds Rebecca. 'We're really generously supported by our donors.'
They've also seen a big increase in referrals from their network of referrers, which include midwives, social workers, community nurses, children's centres and the county council's people from abroad team.
After being set up as a charity in 2016, they donated their first referral pack on June 28 that year, with a total of 76 going out to families in need in 2016, 155 last year and 163 in the first 10 months of this year.
While the documentary raised awareness, Rebecca also puts the increase in donations and referrals down to word spreading about the local baby bank and also the time of year.
'There is a seasonal increase, with it coming up to Christmas and people needing winter coats and baby sleep bags,' she says.
Newborn essentials bundles, which include nappies, wipes, muslins and washing equipment, are the most in-demand item, as well as clothing and bedding bundles, Moses baskets, baby baths and play mats.
The Norfolk charity, which is run entirely by volunteers, many mums themselves, never knows who exactly the person receiving the pack is.
'The referrer gets a reference number from us. We ask for the person's initials, the first part of their postcode and a rough idea of the situation they're in, but we never meet them – we never know who they are. We just know that the referrer has identified that need,' she adds.
'People are in situations such as absolute poverty, welfare cuts, fleeing domestic abuse and financial difficulties due to redundancy, being out of work or unable to work.
'Refugees and asylum seekers, people with English as a second language, can be quite isolated – that can be a barrier to having everything they need.'
It's the referrers themselves, or sometimes their colleagues, who pick up the essentials packs.
The charity sometimes gets feedback from the referrers too, saying how much of a difference it has made to the family.
'These situations should be so positive and happy,' Rebecca concludes. 'Actually people are in really dire straits sometimes. We're trying to take a bit of the edge off where we can.'
If you work with families in need and would like to register as a referrer, go to the website and complete the quick and easy process to do so.
To volunteer for the charity, get in touch via the contact form on the website.
How you can help
Baby Bank Norfolk welcomes good quality, clean and undamaged clothes and other items for babies up to 18 months.
Visit the website or Facebook page for a list of items they can and cannot accept, and details of donation points.
Financial donations are also welcome and will go towards rent and insurance as well as items that have to be bought new such as dummies, bottle teats and Moses basket mattresses.
If you would like to donate financially, or are a company interested in sponsoring Baby Bank Norfolk, please get in touch via the website or Facebook page.