Shropshire Star

Parents choosing between utility bills or buying school shoes, charity boss says

Camilla Bowry, who founded Sal’s Shoes – a charity that redistributes shoes to children in need – was made an OBE at Windsor Castle.

Charity founder Camilla Bowry at Windsor Castle after being made an OBE at a ceremony with the Princess Royal

The founder of a charity which distributes second-hand footwear to families in need has said parents are having to choose between buying their children shoes or paying utility bills amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Camilla “CJ” Bowry, founder and chief executive at Sal’s Shoes, which donates footwear to children all over the world, was made an OBE for services to young people, education and the environment at a ceremony at Windsor Castle.

After the ceremony with the Princess Royal, Ms Bowry told the PA news agency that the charity had seen a surge in demand in recent years in the UK that is “only going up”.

Camilla Bowry is made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Camilla Bowry is made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle, Berkshire (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Ms Bowry, of Oxted, Surrey, founded the charity after her son, Sal, outgrew his first pair of shoes and she was unable to find a place to donate them that would tell her where they would end up.

Last year, the organisation distributed more than 180,000 pairs of shoes to children in the UK, including over 30,000 pairs of school shoes, Ms Bowry said.

Speaking after the ceremony, the charity founder said: “Our school shoes fund buys new school shoes, PE trainers and wellies just for children here in the UK.

“Last year we distributed over 30,000 pairs and this year, if demand continues as it has done so far this year – certainly in the run-up to September, we would expect to double that number.

“Demand is only going up in the UK, as far as we can tell.”

Ms Bowry went on to describe the unprecedented increase in demand for shoes for baby banks that provide essential infant-related items for families experiencing hardship.

She said: “Baby banks initially never had a huge demand for footwear, it was always something that parents could afford because, even if you can’t buy from some of the shoe shops, we have the likes of supermarkets where you can buy cheaper shoes but actually parents don’t have even that surplus any more.

“It’s paying a utility bill with that or putting it towards school.”

Regarding when this surge in demand began in the UK, Ms Bowry said: “We noticed when we launched the school shoes fund I think, coming out of lockdown originally.

“It was the expense initially of getting back to school when children had been out of school for so long and low-income families had been hit the hardest by lockdown.”

When asked what action she hoped to see from the Government in tackling child poverty, Ms Bowry said: “I have absolutely no political agenda, all we do is rehome shoes that have been outgrown before they’ve been outworn.

“All we do know is, whilst we have always worked in the UK and we’ve been working for 10 years, we have never, ever seen demand as it is at the moment.

“We are one of the richest nations in the world and our children can’t afford shoes.”

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