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Destitution and Berwickshire Swap

 Destitution. A word we, at Berwickshire Swap, don’t often use. As most of you will be aware that by coming to a swap that you are saving your families money. 95% of those who filled in our survey about our 2023 swaps agreed with this statement; you did indeed save money. We don’t ask you why you come, we don’t feel we need you to tell us and we won’t ask you. We are grateful that you are choosing to come, to save your family money and in doing so, saving the environment. 

Map of the world and a child pointing.


   In saying this however, we know that destitution and poverty are present in our communities. Knowing this plays a key factor in where we consider holding our events. We look closely at the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SMID). Using this index we can identify areas that, according to government statistics are in areas of deprivation, areas of poverty. We do this to make sure we are reaching, at times, the most in need in our communities. 

Graph showing Yes at 95%
Percentage of Respondents that stated Berwickshire Swap did save them money in 2023.

    Why do we do this, why do we care? Well, a recent publication on Deprivation by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (Destitution in the UK 2023 | Joseph Rowntree Foundation (  recorded that 3 in 10 children in the UK are living in deprivation. This equates to 6 million people being in deep poverty, 1 million children. This figure has increased by a staggering 150% since 2017, that is 3 times more children living in Destitution in 2023 than in 2017. Statistics also show that having 3 or more children increases the likelihood of a family being in poverty. In the same study, 72% of households surveyed said they were going without essentials, 58% without food. Where then lies clothing? In our own survey conducted in collaboration with Community Enterprise into clothing poverty, (available on request) we saw that around 48% of respondents have less than the UK average medium annual salary. 54% said they were likely to struggle to access children’s clothing in the next 12 months, one person stating they had no money at all for children’s clothing. Many respondents stated that they had to go without other essentials when they had to buy clothes. This survey affected us deeply and encouraged and enthused us to do more. 

A pile of children's clothing.
Children's clothing that have been donated to Berwickshire Swap

     Whilst there is no obvious and immediate solution, with government at national and local level looking at ways to help, in a recent meeting about child poverty, a point was raised that it is the third sector that are stepping in to solve these immediate concerns around child poverty. It is the third sector that will compensate for the government. Whilst this was not our immediate thoughts when Berwickshire Swap was created, we have found ourselves more and more involved and concerned in what is being done to help those most in need, those who, due to the increase in living costs cannot afford clothes for their children, or a toy for a birthday. 

Some soft toys and blocks.

This brings me to what are we doing?

If you have come to even just one of our swaps you will have seen the amount of clothes that have been donated to us. You will know that by coming to swaps you are saving your family money. In 2023 we held 29 swaps (that we recorded data from). We had 955 attendees sign in swapping for 1982 children. At our most attended swap we saw 100 people sign in swapping for 190 children. This is minimum. So far in 2024 we have had two very successful swaps, the most recent having twice  the average number of attendees at a swap than in 2023. Is this because more people are in need of our service? Are more people finding it increasingly hard to find the money to pay for children’s clothes and toys?

Advertising material and a lady at table at a swap.

     Along with our swaps another thing you might not know is that we offer an emergency parcel service. This is a service we are incredibly proud of. Thanks to the Robertsons Trust for their funding to secure our Emergency Parcel Coordinator for a further three years. Our emergency parcels get to those who are identified to be most in need. Through referring agencies such as health visitors, food larders, schools and other third sector organisations. These families are those who we know are most in need. This service remains anonymous as sadly many of those who need this service are probably known to us personally. In 2023 we provided 59 emergency parcels from all over the Scottish Borders. At Christmas, one of the hardest times of year for many of us, we joined forces with a cross-organisational project led by local charity Splash. Together we delivered Christmas parcels for 178 people, these included a full Christmas lunch, vouchers for local shops, low budget cooking books, toiletries and even food for pets.  Our contribution was 92 emergency parcels. Each of these unique parcels contained a winter coat, a hat, gloves, socks, pants, pyjamas, 2-3 laundered outfits and a new book. This was a mammoth challenge for us as an organisation as it was like nothing to the scale we had done previously. Volunteers ironed the laundered clothes in their homes in their own time. Mel, our emergency parcel coordinator tirelessly washed, packed, ordered items and led this project to an astounding outcome. We shouted out to the public for help with jackets - the response was incredible. 92 plus, jackets were sought and packaged. The achievement from the community, volunteers and staff was heartfelt when these parcels went out to the community. We were humbled to be asked to be able to provide these for this project. 

Brown paper bags with purple tissue.
Our emergency parcels.

So whilst we don’t know exactly why you might come to our swaps, we are grateful that you do. We are thankful that you choose to donate your preloved children’s items to us so another child can get them. Whilst the figures on child poverty have increased at a dramatic rate we hope that in our communities we can and are making a difference with saving your families money by joining in our circular economy.  We are forever expanding and if you would like to find out more how to help us please get in touch. We have numerous ways on how to volunteer with us, how to donate money to help with keeping our service going, how to donate to our swaps and when our events are.

Together we can help ease the financial burden in our communities.

An adult handing a child a yellow teddy bear surrounded by toys.


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