Sussex babybanks reveal the impact the pandemic has had on families

Some babybanks around the UK have seen demand more than quadruple.

The financial strain of the pandemic has left many families having to rely on babybanks.

Shelley Bennett co-founded Pelican Parcels, based in Brighton, in November 2018.

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The pandemic started in its second year of operations and Shelley says it had a profound impact on their work and its volunteer model.

Little Bundles babybank

Shelley said: “We have had to adapt in order to support the most children possible, for example we look to work closely with local foodbanks, providing nappies and other essentials. In 2021 to date we have supplied over 55,000 nappies via this referral route alone.

“Although we expected our numbers to grow we couldn’t have anticipated that we would go from supporting nearly 500 children and pregnant mums in year one, to supporting 3,000 in year two.”

Babybanks support families who are in need providing clothes, formula, toys, books, prams and cots and cribs.

Shelley said: “It is sad that in our society babybanks and foodbanks are so prevalent. We help support families who are struggling for whatever reason, and those reasons are incredibly varied; whether it’s a parent escaping domestic violence with just the clothes on their back; refugees arriving in our city with nothing desperately seeking a new safe life; a parent who has lost their job and suddenly has no way to get essentials for their child; a parent who becomes ill and can no longer afford the basics for their children…we have seen so many reasons for need.”

Baby2Baby babybank

Pelican Parcels supports families in Brighton and Hove, and as far as Lewes and Newhaven.

Baby2Baby, based in Crowborough/Uckfield, collects donations of good quality clothing and essential items for babies and children 0 – 16 years and redistributes them to local families in need across East Sussex.

Hannah Powell, co-founder, said: “More than 31,000 children are living in poverty in East Sussex; this means parents having to choose between paying bills, buying warm winter clothing, or putting meals on the table. Two thirds of children in poverty have at least one working parent.

“The impact of financial hardship can be hugely detrimental to wellbeing, education, mental health, and future outcomes.

Pelican Parcels

“Redistributing items that people no longer need, and presenting them as a gift to those who do, reduces waste, promotes reuse, and as well as immediately improving the physical environment for a family in need, boosts wellbeing and shows kindness to some who have seldom experienced it.”

During May 2020 and May 2021 it gifted 645 bundles of essential items, compared to 279 the year before.

Jo Petty is the founder of Ten Little Toes Baby Bank, based in Cowfold, West Sussex, which she runs from her home.

She said: “From our own point of view the pandemic didn’t stop us at all, we just had to change the way we worked.”

Little Bundles babybank parcel

“During the lockdown luckily the weather was good so its volunteers could sort out donations in the fresh air and leave bundles outside for support workers to collect. For a while it also had a free ‘shop’ outside the Ten Little Toes HQ which had formula, wipes, baby food, toiletries etc for people to help themselves when needed.”

Many of the babybanks went above and beyond during the pandemic Pelican Parcel put together ‘home schooling packs’ for children which included a couple of reading books, pens, pencils and crayons with notepads and an arts/craft activity. It also ran for the first time in 2021 a “back to school” campaign to help with the high costs of getting children ready with new uniforms, shoes and the related kit.

Ten Little Toes was also present when Milton Mount in Crawley had a huge gas leak and residents were moved to hotels. The team filled the car and met people at the hotel so they could take what they needed.

The families that use the babybanks are referred by one of its partners such as social workers, health visitors, midwifery teams and more.

Jo said: “2021 has been another challenging year and for some, more difficult than 2020. There are more families than ever worrying about being able to give their children a happy Christmas.”

Little Bundles Baby Bank is one of the services of the West Sussex Coastal branch of the National Childbirth Trust. It covers the Arun and Chichester district but extends its baby bank service more widely to support professional partners who work across a larger geographical boundaries that the baby bank does.

Alice Duckworth is branch coordinator, she said: “We know it can be very hard for families to seek help, and also very overwhelming to receive everything a family needs for a new baby from a charity. But we do want to encourage anyone struggling to provide the essentials for their children to seek our help through a referral.

“Since lockdown eased, we have remained busier and we have certainly seen requests for school age children increase alongside the usual level of support we provide to those with new or expectant babies.”

Babybanks are still in need of donations of items and volunteers.

Hannah said: “We are always in need of volunteers and would love to hear from anyone who is interested, either in a personal capacity or through corporate volunteering. We understand that people have other commitments and we offer flexible opportunities which can change to suit the availability or interests of our volunteers.”

Research, conducted by Pampers in May 2020, found that more than a quarter of mums and dads feel like they’ve failed as parents.

Jo said: “Babybanks shouldn’t be important. In 2021 families, through no fault of their own, shouldn’t need to rely on charitable organisations to make ends meet - to ensure they have nappies for their babies, warm clothing for their toddlers and toiletries and pyjamas for their growing older children. Marcus Rashford did a wonderful job of highlighting the food poverty crisis in Britain at the end of 2020. The same crisis applies to families, with increased inflation and the cost of soaring food and energy bills, that are struggling to provide what should be the basics for their children.”

For more information on how to donate items, visit: