First Days Children's Charity was established in 2013. The charity takes donated clothes, toys and equipment for children from newborn to seven years of age and redistributes them to children in Berkshire and beyond whose parents are struggling to provide basic necessities for their families. First Days don’t means test the families we support and so are able to offer a swift and efficient response to requests for help. Emergency referrals (for example, a newborn baby or a child at risk of being taken into care) can often be turned around in the same day.
The charity currently helps around 1600 children each year. The service is run by 8 part time office staff (the equivalent of 2 full time staff members), supported by around 30 regular volunteers. Children are referred to them by professionals working with families (eg. social workers, midwives), who submit a referral request for anything from a simple stairgate, to a full newborn set for triplets. As childcare workers also collect and distribute the items we provide it allows them to build positive relationships with families who may be sometimes be resistant to outside support.
Although Berkshire is an affluent area, between 11% and 30% of children are classed as living in relative poverty across the county. Over a third of the families First Days helps have at least one parent in full time work and parents find themselves struggling for a number of reasons, including physical and mental ill health, redundancy, rising housing costs, austerity measures and the changes to the benefits system. However problems have arisen, the charity's priority is always the children - their motto is “every child deserves the same chance in life”, and this quote from a Referrer sums up what they try to do:
“I just wanted to say thanks to you all for making a very special day for all in the family I am currently supporting. In the words of the 3 year old “it’s the best day ever and she’s alive” (in my life). Absolutely heart melting. I wish I could have recorded the response. I seriously couldn’t do it without you guys”
The money being raised by Reading Roadrunners this year will help provide the items that cannot be given out second hand (such as nappies or mattresses), for staff to run the referral service, and for their warehouse where stock is stored.