Demand for baby bank support grows amid strain of pandemic

Baby Bank Norfolk is a Norwich-based charity which helps families in need throughout the county.

Baby Bank Norfolk is a Norwich-based charity which helps families in need throughout the county - Credit: Baby Bank Norfolk

A volunteer-run group which distributes baby items to those in need has seen an increase in pandemic referrals. 

Baby Bank Norfolk, based in Norwich, was set up in 2015 and has helped more than 600 families with bundles of preloved baby clothes and equipment.

The charity supports people across the county and has typically provided around 200 families with bundles every year. 

Baby Bank Norfolk rents out storage space from Greenfields Community Centre in Norwich.

Baby Bank Norfolk rents out storage space from Greenfields Community Centre - Credit: Baby Bank Norfolk

In January this year, the group fulfilled 28 referrals, the biggest number Baby Bank Norfolk has ever done in a month. 

"If that trend continues it would mean we will be providing more than 300 referrals this year," said Baby Bank trustee Pippa Martin. 

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in referrals this year so far. There are more people struggling given the extreme environment that the pandemic has brought about." 

There were 88 new referrers registering for the service in 2020 and a further 12 this year already. 

Baby Bank Norfolk receives many donations every year to help support struggling families.

Baby Bank Norfolk receives many donations every year to help support struggling families - Credit: Baby Bank Norfolk

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Once set up as a referrer, requests for bespoke bundles of baby clothes and essentials can be submitted.

The requested bundles are prepared by a team of volunteers at the storage facility and are then collected by the referrer to give to the family in need. 

Trustee Vicky Brooke said: "It’s perhaps easy to make assumptions about who would need to use a baby bank - but you’d probably be surprised.

Baby Bank Norfolk trustee Vicky Brooke.

Baby Bank Norfolk trustee Vicky Brooke - Credit: Submitted

"I think the reality is you just never know when your personal circumstances, or your wider environment - just look at what happened in 2020 - could take a serious turn.

"People get referred to us for a number of reasons: maybe they’ve left a violent partner; we get referrals for parents who’ve split up and are sharing custody so need two lots of everything.

"There’s been lots of people who have been victims of rogue landlords, we help lots of families who are refugees, there’s people who have lost their jobs and people on low incomes that can’t make ends meet at the moment."

When the charity was set up, the volunteers were a group of people with no previous experience, but having been supported by other established baby banks in the early stages, it is now running smoothly itself. 

Baby Bank Norfolk gives out small boxes of washing powder, nappy sacks, bottles and dummies. 

Some of the donations for Baby Bank Norfolk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Donations for Baby Bank Norfolk - Credit: Submitted

They also receive toiletry donations for babies, with Greenfields Community Centre on Ives Road in Norwich renting out a storage space for the charity. 

To visit Baby Bank Norfolk's website, and to donate items, go to https://babybanknorfolk.org.uk/