Gordon Brown: Baby banks are stark reminder of how many Brits depend on charityMarch 24, 2019
There are now more than 100 baby banks across the United Kingdom.
And as the old kinds of banks with their cash machines leave our high streets, new kinds of banks are springing up everywhere — hygiene banks, clothes banks, beauty banks and bedding banks on top of the more than 1,200 food banks.
They are just the latest British institutions that have had to be created and run by an army of volunteers to deal with our country’s shocking and rising epidemic of child and family poverty.
One thing is clear — all of these banks are helping to save lives. But their numbers are only going one way.
Instead of our welfare state offering a safety net, charity is fast becoming the last line of defence for our poor.
These are desperate times — but just how desperate is the Government to help the children of Britain?
On March 28th — just 24 hours before the official Brexit leaving day — they will quietly publish the latest figures on child poverty.
Perhaps Ministers are hoping that the nationwide anxiety brought on by Brexit will somehow matter more.
But nothing should matter as much boys and girls living in poverty and this Government is choosing to ignore the vast scale of what is going wrong.
The recent upsurge in baby banks now helps clothe and feed newly-born infants and tens of thousands are already relying on clothes banks and bedding banks, such as that operated by Sharewear in Nottingham, which provides emergency bedding and clothes to people facing a crisis.
Duvets, blankets and sheets are now so expensive that all that many families have is second-hand cast offs and there is now a new glut of what some are calling beauty banks or hygiene banks – providing essential personal care.
The staff and volunteers in charities round the country are putting together toiletries and cosmetics, toothpaste, razors and soap for homeless people who may be attending a job interview or applying for a home.
One recent beneficiary was a teenage girl who'd just left care with a few pounds in her pocket and no home. She arrived at one of the banks and asked for a toothbrush because she didn’t own one.
Hygiene banks also help meet rising concerns about period poverty which brilliantly effective campaigners have rightly focused on in recent months.
In one town near where I live, I know of mothers who cannot afford the bus fare to the food bank and I am aware of others who charge their phones in school while waiting to collect their children because they can’t afford to do it at home.
Even the Christmas gift banks have changed drastically — once they offered children festive extras such as toys for families unable to afford presents.
But now what matters is basics — food to get the family through Christmas and clothes, simply to get the kids to school wearing something other than rags. Chances are that the food will not be luxurious either.
More often than not it will have to be cold because so many poor families don’t have cookers or much experience in cooking hot food.
There is, in the words of one famous writer, despair in the communities Government Ministers never visit and desolation etched on the faces of people they never see.
But the new figures released next week will tell a sad g story — one Ministers won’t want to hear but one they surely cannot ignore.
If they are in line with the latest estimates of the brilliant campaigners for children’s rights, the Child Poverty Action Group, academics Jonathan Bradshaw and Donald Hirsch, and the Resolution Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Trust then poverty among children will continue to rise
Very soon 9 out of every 10 children in non-working households will be in poverty — a staggering 40 per cent rise on 2010.
If they are in line with the Resolution Foundation’s latest estimates and the work of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation then 9 out of every 10 children in non-working households in poverty will be in poverty — a staggering 40 per cent higher than in 2010.
Very soon two in every three children in single parent households — almost 65 per cent — and children in households with 4+ children — nearly 70 per cent — will face poverty, a more than 50 per cent rise.
The overall projections, in line with what has been reported by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, are staggering.
Child poverty will increase from four million in 2017 to five million by 2020, reaching a peak of 5.2million in 2022.
In 2019 Britain, no child should grow up ill-clad and undernourished, with their needs neglected and under-provided.
It is not poverty but opportunity that should be every boy and every girl’s birth-right — and instead of suffering the fate of poverty, fair chance in life should be every single child’s destiny.
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