Referrals to a Bromley charity which provides essentials for local families have risen by a third over the last year, as the pandemic stretches domestic budgets.

Bromley Brighter Beginnings, run entirely by volunteer mums, helps families in poverty who cannot afford basic items, such as nappies, baby formula and school clothing.

The charity has seen a 32% increase in referrals over the last year and is facing an uncertain future, with demand for services only expected to grow over coming months as a second wave of coronavirus hits the country.

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Mum-of-two Emma Martin, who chairs the charity, said: "Over the last year, we have seen a 32% increase in the number of families being referred to us for assistance.

"Our expenditure has more than doubled, partly due to this increase, but also because we have, for safety reasons, had to buy various items that would normally have been donated.

"We have yet to see how the recession, and the ongoing uncertainty and disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, will impact on our costs in the forthcoming year.

“We have no guaranteed income, and are entirely dependent upon our generous supporters for donations, which may also be impacted by the economic crisis."

Treasurer Tracy Griffin told of how she hopes the charity – which recorded bare minimum running costs of just £536.38 for the year – will be able to cope with the expected surge in demand.

She said: "We are going into this year blind essentially, as we have no way of measuring how Covid-19 has affected families in our area – how many and to what extent – so it is with slight nervousness and trepidation that we face what could be our busiest year for helping families.

"We also don't know the impact the other side, on donations, grants, sponsorship etc, as belts will be tightened across so many industries, sectors and households."

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The charity, which runs successful "Newborn Pack", "Bed for Every Child" and "School Uniform" campaigns, also revealed how demand for these basic items has soared over the past year.

Bromley Brighter Beginnings spent more than £28,000 providing beds and bedding for children who would otherwise be sleeping on the sofa or floor, or sharing with one or more members of their family over the last year alone.

While in the weeks leading up to the new school year, the charity saw requests for help in providing uniform soar.

Tracy revealed: "Since the first of August we have spent over £7,000 on uniforms alone. We have seen a rise in uniform referrals, especially from women fleeing domestic violence.

"Often these women are broken physically and mentally and if we can help them feel they are rebuilding their lives and give them some of their self-esteem back we want to do that.

"Children will have witnessed things no children should see, and find themselves in a strange place, away from friends, family and their belongings. This can have a devastating affect mentally on them.”

One mum, whose family were helped by the scheme, told the charity: "I want to say a very big thank you to you and your team at Bromley Brighter Beginnings! The kids are extremely happy.

“At Clarks, my daughter was so excited...she said to the lady assisting with fitting 'this is our very first time in a posh shop, having our feet measured!'"

You can support Bromley Brighter Beginnings by following their Facebook page and by donating on their JustGiving page.