Baby Basics Belfast, a project established by Connor’s North Belfast Centre of Mission in 2017, has earned a Royal seal of approval, thanks to an initiative launched on August 4 by The Duchess of Cambridge.
Baby Basics Belfast, located at Connect Base, Shankill Road, Belfast, is one of two Baby Basics in Connor Diocese – the other is run by the Parish of Ballynure and Ballyeaston in Ballyclare.
They are among a growing number of baby banks across the UK. Baby banks aim to support and empower families by ensuring every child has the essential items they need to thrive. In the UK, they are powered primarily by volunteers and typically run on professional referral from services such as health visitors, midwives and social workers.
Inspired by the work of these charities, The Duchess of Cambridge has brought together 19 British Brands to donate items to baby banks across the UK. This initiative was announced on August 4 when Her Royal Highness visited a baby bank in South Yorkshire to help unload a pallet of deliveries and sort donations, before speaking with families about their experience of baby banks.
Baby Basics Belfast is part of the North Belfast Centre of Mission, a joint project between Church Army and Connor Diocese. The project provides a pack of essential items for families in crisis. These are packed in a Moses basket, a baby bath, or a laundry basket, depending on the needs of the family.
The agencies who use the service are varied, and include charities working with families, homeless people and refugees; the Belfast Health and Social Services Trust; and SureStart Centres.
Donations come from churches and individuals across Greater Belfast and Connor Diocese, with knitwear donated by church craft groups.
Church Army Evangelist Karen Webb, from the North Belfast Centre of Mission, said she was delighted that initiatives like Baby Basics Belfast have been given the Royal seal of approval by The Duchess of Cambridge.
“During the Covid-19 crisis, we have seen an increase in the need to support families with babies and toddlers, especially with nappies and wipes,” Karen said.
“We are very grateful to Belfast City Council who gave us a weekly grant which kept the Baby Basics’ centre stocked with toiletries and nappies when churches were not able to gather and donate items as they had been doing before lockdown.
“Currently, we are averaging 24 packs a month going out to families with young children, all packed and prepared by volunteers. The help we receive because of the Duchess of Cambridge’s interest in the work of Baby Banks will allow us to continue supporting the most vulnerable in our community.”
Earlier this year, The Duchess of Cambridge helped pack essential bundles for vulnerable children at Baby Basics West Norfolk, and has spearheaded a drive for donation of items for babies and toddlers from brands and high street retailers.
Speaking as she announced the sponsorship of items by 19 UK companies, The Duchess said: “Over recent months, I have heard from families who have been supported by baby banks through the most difficult of times and I have been deeply moved by their stories. Having somewhere to turn to for support is important for all families, and baby banks work every day, up and down the country, to provide immediate, tangible and practical help for parents and carers when they are most in need.
“Baby banks are driven by incredible volunteers, demonstrating the power of community spirit in supporting families and coming together to raise the next generation. Thanks to the generosity of the companies taking part in this initiative, baby banks across the UK will be able to support even more families through this particularly challenging time.”
Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics UK, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this amazing initiative from the Duchess of Cambridge. To have the opportunity to highlight the importance of Baby Banks and the amazing service that Baby Basics Centres across the UK provide.
“We haves never been more important than at this time when we are in the midst of a national crisis. So many more families in the UK will need support of a Baby Bank, some for the first time, and we are committed to doing all we can to support them in a way that restores dignity and values parents and their children.”