Poverty and deprivation in Hackney has been an on-going issue throughout the years, with the borough once rated as the second-most deprived in the country (it’s now in 11th place). According to the National Child and Maternal Health and Intelligence Network, the child poverty rate has reached 27.4 per cent in the area in 2016, with an estimated 700 families classed as homeless.
It is clear that many families need as much support as possible, but sadly even those organisations that try to help find themselves in need. The charity ‘Hackney Playbus’ is one such charity: Founded in 1972 by Hackney Councillor Anthony Kendall, the organisation was developed to respond to the increasing number of families living on housing estates without any safe places for their children to play.
Volunteers take game and toys in their great, big, yellow bus direct to families on housing estates with low or no income, and provide a space where children can play while their parents have a cup of tea and a chat (therapists are made available to help those in distress).
To be able to maximise its reach, the charity relied on its bus – affectionately known as Bugsie – to complete its mission. However, the charity has had its wings clipped since Bugsie broke down in August.
Outdoor learning educator and former Playbus child visitor, Shaira Begum, understands the huge impact Bugsie can have on the local community: ‘When I was a child, growing up in an estate in Tower Hamlets, we were not allowed to play outside since the block had trouble with residents relating to drugs and sex work.
‘The only times we would go out to play or to do anything for fun outside of school was when the Hackney Playbus stopped by,’ said Ms Begum.
Claire Kelly has worked with the charity for 10 years now and has seen parents who played on the bus themselves when they were kids bring their own kids in.
‘We aim to provide a warm, friendly environment where the community can come together, talk and find support – there are few opportunities for this on many estates,’ said Ms Kelly.
As Hackney is a deprived area, this charity is essential in ensuring the youth feel a part of their community and also relieving stress for parents.
Despite the loss of Bugsie, the crew has continued to support disadvantaged families through Hackney and East London via weekly events at various locations including Rowley Gardens, Springfield Park and Comberton Children’s centre, but they need Bugsie back. ‘All we can hope for it that we will raise enough money to get a new bus on the road soon and into the estates to make sure communities like the ones I grew up around have access to the provision that I had as a child,’ said Ms Begum.
A fundraiser is currently being held to raise £25,000 for a new bus, and the group is already at the halfway mark, “but we need more donations and we need it now,” said Ms Kelly.
The charity is vital for children growing up in disadvantaged communities, with very little access to toys and space. To add your support, click here, or visit the charity’s FaceBook page by clicking here.