Ilford’s Salvation Army's baby bank has supported more than 200 families in the last three years alone.

In 2015, 13 families were using the donations from the baby bank. Since then a total of 209 families have used the facility.

So far this year, 24 new families have already started using the baby bank’s supplies and co-ordinators expect the numbers to rise further.

The baby bank is a collection of high quality baby clothes, toys and equipment available free of charge to anyone in Redbridge in need of help providing what their baby or toddler needs.

It opened in September 2014 and has supported families from a wide range of backgrounds so far.

Families with limited income, living in temporary accommodation or receiving a limited living allowance or those no longer able to work through ill health have all used the bank in recent months.

The baby bank is open between 10am and 12 noon every Tuesday and Thursday. Appointments can be booked in advance or people can drop in.

Panna Simon, co-ordinator of Ilford’s baby bank, said: “It’s great how Redbridge is helping and coming together to support this.

“People now know about this, I was campaigning for years to get social services to notice us. Now, social services are reaching out to us, schools, nurseries are all reaching out.

“I just want to say thank you to all of those who have supported us, I have quite a large team of volunteers who help me organise things.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Ms Simon said one particular case of baby bank support has stuck with her.

She said: “One woman was trafficked in the sex trade, she had HIV. We provided her with baby formula and everything she needed. We normally only provide formula in extreme cases.”

The Salvation Army supplies ‘Moses baskets’ of items to help struggling parents, as well as other baby goods.

Ms Simon explained the baby bank very rarely gets donations of nappies and baby formula.

Naomi Clifton, of Ilford’s Salvation Army, said: “It’s wonderful to see the joy on people’s faces when we provide them with a Moses basket, bundle of clothing or pushchair that another family has donated to the baby bank.

“We’re seeing more and more families who need help beyond baby clothes and equipment. There are lots of families who are struggling to buy nappies and milk for their children, as well as needing food parcels to help the family eat.

“These kind of donations are always welcome or cash donations so we can buy them in the right size for the families we meet.”

Families often return items to the Salvation Army once their child outgrows them.

The baby bank also helps to build a sense of community and gives support to parents and families who feel isolated.

The Salvation Army run a ‘Messy Families’ informal parenting group three times a year, where parents can share the joys and challenges of parenting.

Ms Clifton said: “Children play while parents talk about children’s development, managing stressful situations and self-care. Every session ends with a messy play session for parents and children to enjoy together.

“I think this part is one of the most important parts of what we do – in some ways helping provide the material resources a family needs is the simple part, but helping them to build a community of support is what will sustain them for the long-term.”

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, has campaigned to raise awareness of the importance of the baby bank.

He said: “The baby bank is a vital source of support to parents in need. Recently I had a mum with a small baby in my surgery and the public response to my appeal for help was wonderful.

“I’d urge residents to donate to the baby bank so that no child in our community goes without food, clothing or toys.”