Cost of living crisis: Struggling UK families ‘reusing nappies and watering down baby formula’ to survive

Desperate families are resorting to Dickensian measures to cope, with babies sleeping in drawers, fed watered down formula and wearing reused nappies

Struggling families are reusing dirty nappies and watering down baby formula to cope with rising bills amid the cost of living crisis, a charity has warned. London-based charity Little Village runs over 200 ‘baby banks’ across the UK and surveyed its workers who revealed the shocking length parents are going to in order to survive.

The results of the survey found that 91% of banks said they’d seen children wearing ill fitting clothes or shoes, while 87% say parents are rationing nappies. One child in the north east of England even developed grade three pressure sores due to extreme rationing of nappies.

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London-based charity Little Village runs over 200 ‘baby banks’ across the UK and surveyed its workers who revealed the shocking length parents are have to go to in order to survive.

Meanwhile, a baby bank in Lancashire helped one mum using sanitary products as nappies, while another was re-using soiled nappies to save money. Some banks reported babies having to sleep in drawers, with 70% of parents supporting children that have no safe place to sleep.

Nearly nine out of ten banks also said they had supported families unable to pay bills, while 79% said that children were being forced to live in unheated homes. Some 73% said they supported families struggling to feed their infant children. One child, aged seven, was sleeping in a travel cot because their family couldn’t afford a bed.

‘Sometimes I have to cancel hospital appointments because I don’t have enough money to get there’

One struggling mum called Jade, recently visited a Little Village baby bank and told staff: “My baby has a problem with her kidney and heart so we have to go back and forth to hospital with her. Sometimes I have to cancel the appointments because I don’t have enough money to get there.

“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."

Government’s energy support package is ‘too little’, too late’

The report also piled pressure on the Government to do more to help vulnerable families during the cost of living crisis. 72% of responding banks say the £2,500 ‘price cap’ on energy bills and other support measures was "too little, too late".

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Jade added: “The government needs to put something in place to help people live a normal life, the bare minimum. Gas, electricity and watershould be the bare minimum that everyone has access to. A month ago we had no hot water at all. Thank God it was warm outside but imagine this happened when it was winter.”

What effect is the cost of living crisis having on you?

One parent in Derbyshire said they took family trips on the bus to keep warm. CEO of 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.

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"Bankers’ pockets are getting fatter, whilst babies are going cold and hungry. At a minimum, benefits should be uprated in line with inflation.We also need changes to the systems that trap people in poverty such as unaffordable housing and childcare.”

She added: “For people who want to know how to help, there are baby banks across the country in urgent need of donated items, financial donations and volunteers. Many of these services are really struggling as many people can no longer afford to donate their time, money or items as the cost-of-living continues to rise.”