The project has been started by Abbey Clarke, who is the Church Warden at St Peter’s Church in Bentley. She is also a debt advisor for Community Money Advice Bentley, and says the idea came from a partnership with the Knottingley-based charity Clothing Bank:
“They provide clothes for our clients with a high quality seven-day pack, including a coat; shoes; underwear; tops and jeans. In return we accept donations for them and have a drop off point in church.
“We spoke with the Clothing Bank, and have used some of their ideas to come up with a uniform bank here.”
Abbey says lots of families are struggling with the cost of living crisis, and thinks the issue of affording to pay for uniforms has gone under the radar:
“Clients are coming to us in financial difficulty and struggle to pay for gas and electric, let alone clothes. Over the summer we’ve had a really big cry for help from our clients for school uniforms. Clothing poverty is real and you find it among people who find a stigma in asking for help.
“Before it was people on low incomes who were coming to us, but now we’re seeing people on what would be considered a decent income asking for help as well. Some people can buy food and pay for energy bills, but they struggle to stretch for uniforms.”
The reception to the plans has been very positive, with Abbey adding that they’ve received enough clothing donations to be able to provide children with uniforms for months.
The next steps are developing partnerships with other local groups:
“All the primary schools in our local area are on board, and we’re hoping to get some secondary schools involved. We’ve got five volunteers helping already, and it’s only been a few weeks. We’ve had an overwhelming response to donations; we’ve had to stop accepting them until we can open properly.
“ASDA at The Dome in Doncaster have donated clothes with the tags still on, and we’re excited by the response generally.”
The uniform bank is a no referral service, meaning that people in need can come to them without having someone else directing them.
Donations are accepted, but it’s not a requirement to give. Abbey hopes they can open every fortnight on a Friday with a time to suitable to help with working patterns:
“We want it to operate like a shop, so people can browse through what they want. We think it’s more dignified rather than someone saying ‘here’s a bag of clothes for a child we’ve never met’. If people don’t feel comfortable coming in they can send us a message on our Facebook page.”
The St Peter’s Uniform Bank can be contacted on: 07490582750 (Calls and WhatsApp) firstname.lastname@example.org