Cost of living: Children in crisis with growing demand and shrinking donations for Baby Basics

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Volunteers at Sheffield charity Baby Basics are keeping their spirits high, despite facing mounting pressures to support struggling families amidst the cost of living crisis.

The charity – which works with midwives and health workers to provide vital supplies to young children living in poverty – has had a rapid rise in referrals, matched by a decline in donations.

Bethany Millward, Baby Basics Sheffield Centre Coordinator, said: “People have been so generous over the last couple of years, but we have noticed recently that there's been a drop in donations.

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“I think some of that will be because people are saving money for themselves, when they’d usually give it away.”

Volunteers working at Baby BasicsVolunteers working at Baby Basics
Volunteers working at Baby Basics

She added: “We are all feeling stretched right now, but there are people out there who were already way beyond stretched.”

Baby Basics, which originated in Sheffield, is a national charity with 45 centres across the UK.

The Sheffield branch was visited by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, in August 2020. She was pictured organising supplies amidst the height of the pandemic, raising considerable support for the cause.

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Two years on, Baby Basics are facing renewed struggles, potentially leaving thousands of children without clothes, food and key equipment.

Paula Stacey sorts clothing at Bay BasicsPaula Stacey sorts clothing at Bay Basics
Paula Stacey sorts clothing at Bay Basics
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Cost of living: How you can donate to Sheffield’s babies in need

At present, the charity is running particularly low on vital items such as cots, buggies, high chairs and toddler beds. The charity says the lack of safe places to sleep is currently its biggest concern.

Maggie Hanson, a volunteer and a former community midwife, said: “The safe sleeping [is a problem]. When you see a baby sleeping in a drawer, or sharing a bed with their mum when it's not appropriate, you worry if that baby will be okay.”

According to the NHS, there is an association between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and sleeping with a baby in the same bed, sofa or chair. However, for some families, buying a cot is simply not financially viable.

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Volunteer Paula Stacey at the ironing boardVolunteer Paula Stacey at the ironing board
Volunteer Paula Stacey at the ironing board

This is why Baby Basics volunteers have helped to support over 10,220 children and their families over the last year, and packed over 12,371 items, checking every single one with care.

Amy Stackhouse, 44, a Baby Basics volunteer said: “Every time you pack something up, you think about the fact that that’s going to somebody and you can imagine it. It’s a very direct way of helping people because you can imagine how much enjoyment a child or a family will get out of the things that you’re putting together for them.”

She added: “There are times when we run short of things definitely, and I think sometimes that’s because we’re giving so many things out.

“We rely on people just continuing to be generous. If that didn’t happen, then there would be nothing for us to do. It’s really important.”