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Helping families in need in Berkshire: our latest Act of Kindness

Rita at First Days charity

Every parent knows how quickly kids grow out of their clothes - and how expensive that can be for a family. Sadly, there are too many families locally that have fallen on hard times and are living in poverty, and for whom clothes are a major expense they cannot afford.

That’s why at LGFL we are supporting a local charity that aims to prevent clothes and other items that could help a family in need from ending up in landfill, as so much does these days.

 

First Days Children’s Charity

The First Days charity’s idea is simple. They encourage families to donate used and good quality clothes, toys and equipment for children, from newborn to age seven. The charity then redistributes items to parents in need across Berkshire, who are struggling to provide the basic necessities for their families. The charity also helps with provision of school uniforms for children aged 4 to 16 years.

LGFL Director Rita Gupta explains why the family law firm has chosen to support the charity as part of 10 Acts of Kindness initiative:

“As a parent myself, I find it heart breaking that local families have such a great need, and can’t afford necessities such as a warm winter coat. The children involved are the innocent party, and no child in our society should have to go without the basics.

We love the charity’s work because it helps on several levels.

  • It helps local families with practical, almost immediate help at time of need
  • It helps put ‘hand me downs’ and ‘upcycling’ back in fashion
  • It encourages us to be green and reduces landfill

I have a love of clothes, and have recycled my son’s items (with his permission of course!) so that other children will benefit from them. Much to my surprise, one of the items the charity is most short of are socks, which they put in Christmas gift bags at this time of year. So we also donated new packets of socks in the required sizes! So simple, so inexpensive to us, but so vital to others.”

Identifying families in need

Nominations for those who need help are received from social services, plus the caring and medical profession. The charity get 100 referrals each month and have a 7-10 day turnaround for parcels to families. In total, the charity helps around 1500 children every year, whose families have been affected by issues including physical and mental ill health, redundancy, rising housing costs, family breakdown, refugee status, austerity measures and the changes to the benefits system.

As First Days fundraising manager Annette Honneyball says:

“One of our most important roles is to help people to recognise that poverty exists on our doorstep and in families who you would never know are struggling. We all assume Berkshire is affluent but not everyone is. Families fall on hard times through no fault of their own.”

 

Working, but just not managing

Rita was shocked to realise that around a third of the families helped by the charity have at least one parent in full time work, yet are still struggling. 15% of those helped are escaping domestic violence and abusive relationships, (something we come across all too often in our line of work). 7% are refugees who have arrived in the UK with very little to their name.

Berkshire may seem an affluent county, but like much of Britain, behind the high house price headlines, there is genuine hardship happening too. In our immediate area alone:

  • Wokingham - 11% are in poverty
  • Parts of Reading - 24%
  • Slough - 30%

What is poverty?

In Europe, the definition of relative poverty is where a household income is 60% or less of the country's median household income, which in the UK is currently around £25,000. This means that if a household is bringing in less than £15,000 total a year, they cannot afford an “ordinary living pattern” and that they are excluded from activities and opportunities as a result.

Or as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation puts it rather more bluntly:

“Poverty means not being able to heat your home, pay your rent, or buy the essentials for your children. It means waking up every day facing insecurity, uncertainty, and impossible decisions about money. It means facing marginalisation – and even discrimination – because of your financial circumstances.”

 

Poverty in Berkshire

Poverty in Berkshire can mean a stark choice between school shoes or food. The issue of new school uniforms is also a major concern. The average primary school uniform costs around £200 and secondary school around £330. What’s more, some families in temporary accommodation don’t have access to laundry facilities, so can’t wash school shirts regularly.

 

How you can help

If you would like to help the First Days, either by donating items or fund raising, the charity would love to hear from you at www.firstdays.net. They receive no government funding and rely on willing volunteers. Or you can go online and checkout their wish-list at Amazon.

 

The LGFL Acts of Kindness (AoKs)

We’ve identified ten causes to support during our 10th anniversary year You’ll find more details in previous blogs, and our next article will give a full round-up of our AoKs!