Baby bank founder challenges Prime Minister Liz Truss to act on cost of living as demand surges

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

The owner of a baby bank has challenged the Government to act on the rising costs of living as demand at the charity surges.

Operated by the organisation The Parent Network, the service in Portsmouth has seen demand triple from when it started in 2020.

Up to 600 families now access support which sees bags of food pouches, clothing, toiletries, buggies and pushchairs handed out.

Ahead of an announcement on energy bills by new Prime Minister Liz Truss, chief executive Matt Foster has made a direct appeal for tangible action.

"We're not enough. We're really not. We do what we can," he said.

The baby bank in Portsmouth has seen demand triple Credit: ITV News

"But we can't put the heating on for people. We can't help people with their bills.

"That is the job of the government who need to stand up and do that, and that is a direct challenge to them to say, you know, roll your sleeves up and help these families because we can't do that job for you.

"We know there are families where the parents will be going hungry right now because they want to put food on the table for their children. And they can't afford to feed everybody.

"It's almost unbelievable that in this day and age that families are making those decisions that families are put in this position.

Many service users are 'Googling' for support and discovering the baby bank Credit: ITV News Meridian

"Food in your belly or a roof over your head are genuine concerns for families in in this day and age.

"It shouldn't be happening. It's appalling really that it's happening."

'We may not have the food to meet the demand'

The surge in demand is seen elsewhere in the city at the North End Pantry where 150 people a week will come in and access up to 10 items on their visit, in exchange for £4.

Demand has shot up 60% since launching 18 months ago with the initial idea for the project to reduce food waste.

Watch: 'It's going right back to the seventies, the sixties, fifties, even'

"The change of people who want to help stop food going to landfill is now changing to people who need to come and access food cheaply to be able to feed their families", says Rev Tracey Ansell of North End Baptist Church where the pantry is held.

"Once the winter comes and the cold weather comes and people are having to put their heating on, we're expecting a lot more people and we may not have the food to meet the demand that we see staring at us."

Vanessa Marples who uses the service said, "It's going right back to the seventies, the sixties, fifties, even, where, you know, post-war, people were really scraping and scrimping.

"In today's society we shouldn't be doing that. In today's society, it's just completely wrong."

Speaking at her first Prime Minister's questions Liz Truss told the Commons she will take "immediate action" to help households and that plans to do so will be announced on Thursday.

In her first speech as prime minister on Tuesday, Ms Truss had assured the nation "we can ride out the storm" as she set out three key priorities that she planned to focus on straight away.

They were: growing the economy, dealing "hands-on" with the energy crisis, and working on the record NHS backlog.