Baby Basics West Cumbria
How it all began
A few years ago I was having a conversation with a friend in Whitehaven about vulnerable members of our community and I asked her if she knew of anything like a food bank that provided baby equipment and clothing. I had a loft full of items in good condition that I was keen to gift and I was surprised that something like this did not already exist. We discussed the practicalities of such a project and concluded that storage facilities would be potentially problematic, due to the costs and quality required for safely storing such items.
Fast forward to last summer and a series of conversations with friends in health, church and family support roles reminded me of the baby bank idea. I researched the need and support for such a project, looked at other resources in the region and assessed the costs that might be involved. I then applied for a DEFRA grant through the Copeland Community Team at Cumbria County Council, which was successful and I approached the Howgill Family Centre to ask them to partner with us. They were keen to support our project as it worked so well with their initiatives and were able to provided us with a safe and warm space for our store room, which we are very grateful for.
Who we are
Baby Basics West Cumbria is a volunteer-led project aiming to support vulnerable and marginalised mothers and families who are struggling to meet the financial and practical burden of looking after a new baby. We do this by providing much needed clothing, equipment and other essentials through referrals from health professionals likes NHS midwives and health visitors in the Copeland and Allerdale areas. The people that we help include, but are not limited to, women fleeing domestic abuse and trafficking, teenage mothers, people seeking asylum and those greatly impacted financially by the COVID pandemic.
We are one of many branch of Baby Basics, the largest network of baby banks in the UK, which began at a church toddler group in Sheffield in 2009. This partnership has provided us with a wealth of experience to draw from, as well as an excellent operating manual outlining the necessary procedures for managing the project safely and effectively.
Members of the local community donate good quality preloved clothing and equipment, which our volunteers sort, checked and catalogue. These items are then compiled with new items such as toiletries and nappies, which have also been donated, and made available for midwives and health visitors to request for clients.
What we provide
We have no criteria for who can, and who cannot receive items from us, but all our requests must come from health professionals, so that we can provide support directly where it is needed. Our online booking system and storage of printed information is GDPR complaint. All equipment is safety checked and all moses baskets have brand new mattresses.
All that is required for a referral is some basic information about the client, details of the required items and a date when the referral is required by. Once the items are ready we let the health professional know when it is ready for collection. Currently we can provide:
* Moses basket starter pack
* Starter pack - no basket
* Clothing bundles (0-3 months, 3-6 months & 6-9 months)
* Baby toiletries
* Nappies (please specify size)
* Baby bath
* Changing mat
* Bouncy chair
* Newborn buggy (if available)
Since opening for referrals in January 2021 we have had a number of referrals from NHS health visitors and more recently with The Freedom Project at Lillyhall. In February we were delighted to be awarded further start up funding through a Community Grant from Cumbria County Council which has enabled us to buy more racking and storage boxes to keep our store room organised. It is a joy to serve our community and we are looking forward to working with health professionals further in the coming months and watching the project develop.
Christine & the Team
Christine Davey, Volunteer Centre Manager of the project.