Aisha Washington, Ark Venture Partner, explains how the network will support the UK baby banks that act as lifelines to thousands of families by providing clothes, toys and equipment for babies and children.
Providing the essentials to families
According to The Child Action Poverty Group, one third of all children under five in the UK are living in poverty which is damaging to all areas of their development – cognitive development scores can be affected by as much as 20%.
Research by Little Village and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2020 also showed that children born to families living in poverty are more likely to encounter adverse childhood experiences that negatively impact future outcomes in their education, health and careers.
Families in need often struggle to obtain essential items, despite many others having an excess of baby and children's clothes and equipment that can be reused.
Across the country, baby banks bring local communities together to provide a safety net that can tackle a family's immediate needs, such as a winter coat or a safe place to sleep.
They also connect vulnerable families to a broader network to help them access more support and advice.
They are powered by local volunteers who benefit from being part of a positive community response; many are parents who have received support from baby banks or who wish to support other families in their local area.
Baby banks are typically micro or small organisations, predominantly volunteer-led, created by community entrepreneurs to address a local need. As such, they are disparate, underfunded and:
- Develop their organisations individually through trial and error
- Are unable to access significant sources of funding or corporate partnerships that seek to work at a large scale
- Struggle to raise awareness of their services to potential donors, volunteers, and service users.
Little Village is one of Ark's affiliate ventures and supports families with babies and children under five living in poverty across London. They run a baby bank network, collecting, sorting and passing on pre-loved clothes and equipment. Parents are also helped by a guidance team, who offer advice and links to other services.
While Little Village’s website details where to find local baby banks outside of their own areas of coverage, and others are often found through word of mouth, it takes time to track and coordinate support.
Working together to support families better
The new National Baby Bank Network will support UK baby banks so that every child has the kit and clothing they need to thrive.
The network will help:
- Raise awareness and amplify the voices of baby banks, their volunteers and the families and communities they support
- Build local and community power through supporting and capacity building local entrepreneurs to create new baby banks in areas of unmet need, and to help new and existing baby banks to best serve their communities
- Share knowledge and best practice, and provide systems and tools for baby banks to use so that all baby banks can run as safely and effectively as possible
- Track the national impact of baby banks and develop the case for support
We know baby banks have a long-term role as community networks that can encourage environmental sustainability, by facilitating the reuse of clothing and kit as well as helping to build a more resilient support system where families can help other families.
Finally, we hope the network will help attract funding and partnerships at a national scale, providing the opportunity for funders and corporates to support local community organisations nationwide through a single point of contact.
If you're interested in supporting the baby bank network, or know of prospective or existing baby banks that may wish to be part of it, please contact Aisha Washington.