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"As a manager working in the Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) commissioned Family Mentor Service, I regularly heared from families who were really struggling. Nottingham City has high levels of deprivation and the Covid-19 pandemic had disproportionately increased disadvantage for some families and communities.  


As a team working with the families impacted we wanted to help address these inequalities in a way that was low cost, built with community need and community capacity in mind and capitalised on the covid-19 community spirit; all of which would hopefully support it to be sustainable in the longer term.


‘Around Again’ started in September 2020 and was brought to life through the Family Mentor Service alongside The Vine – a community hub – which provides a physical space from which to run the service.  The Family Mentor Service, delivered in St Ann’s, Hyson Green and Arboretum by Framework HA, is the driving force behind the offer, with staff members and volunteers involved in the practical running of the scheme. 


A Facebook page “Around Again Nottingham” was set up, which marked the baby bank being officially open for business.  

The premise behind the bank is simple:  
•    It’s free to everyone.  
•    People donate baby equipment, toys and clothes that still have use but are no longer required 
•    Donated items are then gifted to others 
•    The cycle starts again 

Our method of operating is in the name ‘Around Again’; parents can request what they need but if there is still some use left in the items after, they are asked to donate them back to go ‘Around Again’.  This has been very positively received, with feedback reflecting that the opportunity to be able to contribute later down the line reduces people’s negative feelings about having to receive donations in the first place; it makes it feel less like they are receiving charity.


Initially there was some scepticism and concerns that the offer might be abused, this however has not been the case.  What we have seen is that people genuinely want to support the scheme. It’s also given us a great opportunity to engage with families. A chat as they collect or donate, allows us to share information about the SSBC offer and build relationships and trust with families that we may, otherwise, have struggled to engage with.

We’ve also linked up with local partners and agencies so they can collect items on behalf of families on their caseloads.  This has included midwifes, health visitors, family nurse partnership (FNP) nurses, Salvation Army, and homeless shelters.  We’ve also worked in partnership with other baby and food banks, taking larger items (because we have storage) which they’ve had donated and providing smaller items to families they are in contact with.


Within a few months ‘Around Again’ has grown phenomenally reaching a wider and wider audience. We are now one of the named charities of our local Asda supermarket, receiving regular donations of toys, nappies, baby toiletries, toothpaste and toothbrushes.  


We are working with Himmah and Hope Church who send us regular donations of baby food, milk and nappies.  Read On Nottingham (Nottingham’s National Literacy Trust Hub) have donated books for our families and we have also recently partnered with the Hygiene bank project who supply us with nappies, sanitary wear, and cleaning products.
We are now in the process of starting a reciprocal referral arrangement with Sharewear who distribute clothing, bedding, towels etc. So everyone benefits."
 

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