Families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis are reusing dirty nappies, skipping hot meals and rationing medication, worrying research reveals.
A survey of Britain’s baby banks, which hand out essentials including nappies and clothes for under fives, found 90% are facing their busiest year to date as demand soars.
Volunteers are seeing parents forced to take increasingly desperate measures as they struggle to make ends meet, including using sanitary towels as nappies, being unable to afford medication like Calpol and riding the bus to keep warm.
One child visiting a baby bank was found to have a grade three pressure sore after the parents were forced to ration nappies.
While another mum, who is already rationing electricity, revealed she was “dreading winter”.
The study of 55 baby banks across the UK also found nine in 10 said they are regularly seeing children with ill-fitting clothes or shoes and households unable to afford heating.
While eight in 10 are seeing families who are forced to ration nappies and seven in ten are seeing children go hungry.
One desperate baby bank user said she was already missing appointments for her child, who has heart and kidney problems, because she can’t afford to travel to hospital.
The mum, who does not want to be named, added: “We have to limit how much electricity we can use in the house so it’s more or less just reading, when it gets dark we’ll put the TV on and the lights back on.
“While my stepdaughters are at school we turn everything off, the boiler, everything gets shut down until I have to cook or run a bath for everyone.
“The uncertainty is stressing me out … I’m dreading winter.”
In response, baby banks have issued an urgent appeal for donations and support as more and more families turn to them for help.
CEO of London-based baby banks Little Village, Sophie Livingstone MBE, said: “Our survey paints an extremely bleak picture of families living in extreme poverty in this country.
“Babies left in filthy nappies because their parents can’t afford to replace them; young children in pain because their families can’t afford to buy Calpol; others living in cold, dark, unsafe homes.
“It doesn’t have to be this way and I would urge the Government to take immediate action to address this hidden crisis of extreme child poverty.
“Bankers’ pockets are getting fatter, whilst babies are going cold and hungry. At a minimum, benefits should be uprated in line with inflation.”
Steph Archbold, from Love, Amelia baby bank in Sunderland, added: “The North-East has the highest child poverty rate in the country and we’re certainly feeling the impact of that, we’re the busiest we’ve ever been and have supported 6,000 children since 2018 which is just shocking.
“The sad thing is, many of the parents we see are in work, with lots working in services like the NHS, but they’re just not paid enough to make ends meet.”
The survey revealed some of the shocking circumstances experienced by families supported by baby banks, including:
- A family using sanitary towels as nappies (Somerset).
- A mum-of-three who was unable to afford to heat her home so comes to the baby bank to keep warm. The family take the bus from one town to another a few days a week to keep warm (Derbyshire).
- Child with a grade three pressure sore due to extreme rationing of nappies (North East of England)
- Several families who are not giving their children a hot meal each day as they can’t afford to turn the oven on (Oxfordshire).
- Mother sitting in the dark all day with nothing turned on until the children return from school (location not provided)
- A parent reusing nappies after the baby had pooed in it (Gloucestershire).
- A family requesting a bed as their child was sleeping in a drawer (Lincolnshire)
- A mum using tissue paper for sanitary wear (Lancashire)
- Family rationing Calpol as they couldn’t afford it (location not provided)
- A family whose seven-year-old was sleeping in a travel cot while two families were crammed into one house (location not provided)