Jane Shepherd

Posted on February 14 2019


We exist as a business because people are good enough to trust us and buy our products, something we never take for granted. In turn, we want to give something back to the community – not necessarily directly to our customers of course, but to the community in its widest sense, of which we are all a part. 

Whether or not we’ve had children ourselves, we all know what a wonderful but also challenging time it can be. There is huge pressure to do the right thing, be a good parent and to provide the very best in terms of emotional wellbeing and physical goods for the new baby; so potentially (and ironically) it can be an incredibly difficult, lonely and stressful time.

So we're really delighted to have supported three Baby Bank branches, in Bristol, Exeter and Birmingham with donations of new baby clothing. The first two are part of a Network set up in 2015 by Eva Fernandes and two co-founders; the third, in Birmingham, was set up in 2014 by Birmingham City Church’s Food bank and Karis Neighbour Scheme (KNS). Between them, over 1000 families are supported each year, taking referrals from health visitors, children’s centres and other local professionals who are working with vulnerable families.  Contact details can be found on their websites (below).


Interview with Eva Fernandes, co-founder Baby Bank Network:

How does Baby Bank work?

It’s a simple and obvious idea that I hope will spread across the country and world; we collect used essential baby items and give them to people in need. 


Who is supported?

We support families who for whatever reason could not afford to buy those items new. Bristol has a child poverty rate of 25%. That is a disturbing number of children who could be in need. .. We work with social workers, health visitors and other charities whose clients need baby items. They place orders with us, much like they would do if they were shopping online. The order is then delivered or collected and given to the family.


Why did you decide to set up the Baby Bank Network?

At the time of starting the charity I had a nursery store selling organic, fair-trade and sustainable baby products including Pigeon clothing. It distressed me to talk to parents to be told that they had to buy a lot of stuff when they have a baby … Going to trade shows was upsetting as it felt like manufacturers were preying on new parent’s naivety and desire to do the best for their child was mixed in with buying the latest gadget or toy. It was also after the May 2015 elections when I felt that the situation for people on benefits would only get worse, which has been proven by the introduction of universal credit and the impact it is having.


How many families have you (are you able to) supported?

Currently we support around 90 families a month...We employ a local delivery service that takes items from us to the referral partners office so they are one step closer to getting the items to the families.


What are the most requested items?

Toiletries followed by clothes; then cots and pushchairs. We have a range of items that we give out but have honed those down to things we deem useful. Personally I love seeing a kit of washable nappies going out because these will save the family a huge amount of money plus they are a much better option for the environment than single use disposables.


Do you have any plans for the future, or continue as you are?

When we started the charity it was with the intention of helping others to do the same. So far we have 3 other branches in the network, in Aberdeenshire, Exeter and recently in the Isle of White. We share what we have learnt and our branding and systems so that they can get on with doing the important stuff. Thinking ahead we are working with Resource Futures a UK organisation that happens to be in Bristol about how we can help more baby banks get off the ground and also build on the reuse element of the project so more baby products are reused...


How could some of the underlying causes of this need be addressed (eg. by government)?

Universal Credit has not been great for families in need. In other countries in Europe families are given much more support with longer maternity or paternity leave and cheaper childcare.  It would be good to see structural changes happen so that parents had more support. I also think that we need more awareness about how things are made and marketing around the wider impact a product has. Some education for parents about what they really need so they don’t waste money and resources on surplus baby gear that will just end up in landfill. Of course it would be great if the manufacturers of baby products all had the ethics of Pigeon, but sadly that’s not the case. There are so many things that parents just do not need and that are made from horrid plastics and chemicals. I wrote about this in a blog (check for details).

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