Shropshire baby bank charity to offer school uniform support amid cost-of-living crisis

A baby bank set up to support Shropshire families during the pandemic is to expand into schools due to increased demand for its services as more parents feel the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis.

Leanne Simcoe, founder of Little Stars, who provide baby equipment, clothes, toys through donations
Leanne Simcoe, founder of Little Stars, who provide baby equipment, clothes, toys through donations

Leanne Simcoe founded Little Stars Baby Bank in August 2020 to help new parents who needed support with the provision of baby clothes, toiletries, baths, Moses baskets and other essential items.

But the charity has seen such growth that it has now launched a new service to help families by providing donated school uniforms and PE kits to those who need them.

Drop-off points have been set up at Tesco stores in Ellesmere, Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch plus Morrisons in Oswestry and Shrewsbury for those who can donate good quality uniforms their children have grown out of.

Leanne Simcoe at Little Stars

And Leanne is preparing to work with headteachers across the county to assist families who need support.

"The plan is for every school under Shropshire Council to have the opportunity to be referred into the service," she said.

"We have set up a number of drop-off points across the county thanks to Tesco and Morrisons and it's a service which will be available all year round, not just for the September intake, because we know children grow out of uniforms.

"We have launched this in partnership with Aico. They have helped us get it off the ground."

"It's an important scheme and it gives children confidence if they are wearing the right uniform.

"It improves their mental health when they are able to walk into school, knowing they have a uniform that fits them and it's the same as their peers."

Leanne Simcoe at Little Stars

Leanne believes demand for charities like hers is only going to get higher in the coming months.

"When you think about energy costs, petrol and the hike in all bills, these things are going to be a lot more expensive," she said.

"I was looking at our own figures last week and, as a new charity, this time last year we 40 plus referrals but we are on more than double that now and things are moving at pace. I can only see that demand continuing to grow.

"We have seen a massive increase in demand for things like toiletries and wipes.

"It's upsetting that the need is there but, at the same time, it's good that we have created this service so that we can give people a helping hand and show them kindness and offer support for their little ones."

The charity is also doing its bit to support refugees who have arrived in Shropshire from war-torn Ukraine.

"We have helped a number already, who have arrived in the county with newborn babies," said Leanne.

"We have provided them with bundles, including Moses baskets. I hope families know they can reach out to us and we will give them our support."

Leanne, mother to Jake, aged two, and Clarissa, aged five, came up with the idea for her charity as she wanted to pass on the items her children no longer needed but which were in brilliant condition, so they could have a second life elsewhere.

She was surprised to learn that there was nowhere near her she could take her items, when she knew there were families in desperate need of them. Since starting up, the charity has received more than 8,000 donations.

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