Duchess of Cambridge spearheads donation drive from retailers to support Sheffield baby charity

The Duchess of Cambridge donned a face mask on a visit to Sheffield on Tuesday and met with parents and workers at a charity providing vital support for vulnerable families.

Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 10:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 10:01 pm

Kate helped unpack donations including clothes and toys during her visit to Baby Basics UK in Sheffield, before talking to parents about how baby banks have provided them with invaluable support when they have needed it most.

And she revealed that the stories of families struggling during lockdown had moved her to tears.

Kate told how she wept after a trip to a similar project in Norfolk, which provides essential items to mothers in need like nappies and infant clothes.

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The Duchess of Cambridge wearing a face mask, talks to Founder of Abernecessities Danielle Flecher-Horn, CEO Little Village Sophia Parker and CEO Baby Basics UK Cat Ross during a visit to Baby Basic UK & Baby Basics in Sheffield

The duchess' tour of Baby Basics UK highlighted her efforts spearheading a donation drive which has seen shops like John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Tesco give more than 10,000 new goods to baby banks across the country.

During the event, Kate put on a floral face mask, a move which shows how the monarchy are adhering to coronavirus guidelines like the rest of the country.

The Duchess of Cornwall recently wore a face covering during a visit to the National Gallery in London, and the Prince of Wales has joked about being given tartan masks.

Baby banks have proved to be a lifeline for many parents during the coronavirus crisis, but have found their services under increasing pressure due to demand and because they cannot accept second hand donations.

The Duchess of Cambridge, wearing a face mask

Hearing of this, Kate - who has also previously visited Baby Basics in West Norfolk - decided to see if she could help and has encouraged donations from 19 brands and high street retailers to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities, who operate baby banks across the UK.

Their workforce is primarily volunteers and they receive referrals from services like health visitors, midwives and social workers.

Commenting on how she cried after returning home from the baby bank visit, Kate said: "It can get very emotional.

"I remember a couple of the families I met from King's Lynn and I went home and literally burst into tears, their stories were so moving. The struggles they have gone through, the bravery they have shown ... in extraordinary circumstances.

The Duchess of Cambridge spoke to baby banks on a teleconference during a visit to the Sheffield charity.

"Helping their families through extraordinary times."

Cat Ross, chief executive officer of Baby Basics, told the duchess: "Often in a world where there is a lot of judgment and stereotyping about being poor, that additional stress can be even more difficult for parents who are doing amazing things to keep their families going with such strength, such determination."

Kate replied: "Yes, one of the mums I met was a nurse. These are families who do fantastic jobs and even they are struggling.

"All of the research shows how vital things like this are for them and that they are being recognised."

The Duchess of Cambridge, wearing a face mask, talks to the family of Ali Wartty, Sahara Hamawandy and their triplets San, Shan and Laveen, who got supported by Baby Basics

The duchess talked at length about the future impact of Covid-19, particularly for children.

"It's difficult for sure but there is a lot of fear (and) worry about when furlough ends and what it means for families," said Ms Ross.

"But one of the positives to come out of it is the strength of communities across the UK and people wanting to help, volunteering and wanting to provide for each other.

"Organisations like us want to harvest that and it keep it going as much as possible."

At the height of the lockdown, Kate's children were pictured joining in with the weekly applause for carers and delivering food to the vulnerable on the Queen's Sandringham estate.

The duchess said: "It's been wonderful during lockdown, hasn't it?

"About the way everyone has been busy knitting away, and actually it is those small volunteering acts that everyone can contribute to, that make such a difference.

"That inter-generational support system has been amazing. Knowing that you can make such a big difference to another family is wonderful."

Baby Basics, which was founded in 2009, reported that an estimated one in 100 families in England with children under five-years-old had visited a baby bank in the UK, according to a survey produced in 2018.

The charity found there had also been a substantial increase in the use of their services during the coronavirus pandemic, with referrals up 110 per cent.

As well as donating useful items to people in need, Baby Basics also supports women who have survived domestic abuse and displacement.

The city-centre based organisation supported over 4,000 families through their UK-wide network of centres in 2019 and is anticipated to have helped 7,000 families by the end of this year.

The charity which has provided clothing, toiletries and other essentials for people with children up to the age of five, also works with people of all ages in the Sheffield community, in order to bring those struggling the help they need.

Children have supported Baby Basics by decorating gift boxes for those in need, while older people have knitted blankets and baby clothes with ‘as much love and care as if they were for their own grandchildren’ for the charity.

The organisation which prides itself on giving essential baby and toddler equipment to people who are struggling financially, also seeks to provide a safe, reliable service for women seeking asylum and those fleeing abuse and trafficking – to give them someone to trust and talk to.