'Baby Bank' for struggling new mothers

(Photo: Acelya Aksunkur)

A church-based project in Sheffield is providing crucial support for pregnant and new mums who cannot afford basic supplies to care for their children.

Baby Basics was set up in 2009 to provide vital products and equipment for vulnerable women in Sheffield and the surrounding area, most commonly homeless women, teenage mothers, refugees and those seeking asylum, all of whom are referred by healthcare professionals.

Founded by Hannah Peck, Baby Basics operates under a vision based on verses from Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, which says: "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Baby Basics believes it is imperative to help those who are struggling, and hopes to provide practical support where it can.

One of the key means of support that the project provides is newborn starter packs - baskets filled with essentials for new mums and babies such as baby shampoo, nappies, towels and newborn clothing. It operates on a system similar to that of a foodbank, with the public donating items and Baby Basics distributing them to people in need.

Since opening, the charity has given away over 1,000 baskets, and has reported a steep increase in demand over the past 12 months.

Ms Peck told The Guardian that "people are really struggling".
"Poverty doesn't just affect someone who is unemployed," she said, noting that they get requests from all kinds of women and families," she said.

Such is the rise in demand that a new branch was opened in Northampton at the beginning of 2013, and similar projects have begun to operate across the country.

The National Childbirth Trust has estimated that up to 150,000 babies are born each year in the UK to families who cannot afford basic care products, and head of volunteering Philip Rosser says vital support is needed.

"With poverty in the UK increasing alongside continuing economic difficulties, disadvantaged parents and their children are more vulnerable than ever before," he says.

The Child Poverty Action Group has criticised the government for allowing poverty to reach the level apparent in the UK today, which is now at a crisis point.

"It is the grim but inevitable consequence of cuts like the government's scrapping of the baby element of tax credits," said chief executive, Alison Garnham.

"We know we are failing as a decent society when parents must rely on emergency aid for the basic things their baby needs."

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