More than a quarter of a million children in 140,000 families across the nation are being forced to go without fresh nappies, a new report has found.
Australia has a growing “nappy stress” problem according to research by The Nappy Collective – a volunteer-led organisation that collects leftover nappies and redistributes them to families in need.
The report defines nappy stress as families not having enough nappies to change their children as often as needed.
Families experiencing nappy stress are “likely to cut back on other essentials in order to afford enough nappies”.
Nappy stress is a “persistent challenge” in Australia, with child poverty rates hovering between 14.3 per cent and 18.1 per cent, the report said.
The number of children living in families experiencing nappy stress is estimated to have increased by 20 per cent in just a decade, from around 208,000 in 2005/06 to around 250,000 in 2015/16.
“Without significant new investments, changes to government policy (such as stronger social security support), child poverty rates will persist and nappy stress will grow in line with population growth,” the report said.
Lack of income, the high cost of living, and broader social disadvantage are key drivers of nappy stress, The Nappy Collective chief executive Lani Masuka said.
“Increasingly, families or parents don’t have enough nappies to change their children’s nappies as often as they need,” she said.
“Some cut back on other essentials – such as food – to afford enough nappies.”
The Nappy Collective found that nappy stress has been getting worse for lower income families over the past decade.
“Our research reveals that disadvantaged families need about 380 million nappies per year, which amounts to an estimated $191 million worth of nappies nationally,” Ms Masuku said.
“The need for nappies is constantly growing as is our list of over 200 charity partners.”
Michelle* is a mother of three in Melbourne’s Bayside area.
The Nappy Collective has been providing her with nappies since the birth of her baby boy two months ago.
“The nappies have helped with so many things. Due to [not having to cover] the cost of nappies, I can now make healthier food choices,” Michelle said.
“My children are able to enjoy more positive play due to not sitting in wet or soiled nappies.”
Access to fresh nappies has also “reduced the number of nappy rashes because I can change my baby more frequently”,” she said.
How to help
The Nappy Collective is currently calling on the community to donate leftover, unused, disposal nappies at local drop off points before May 24.
The organisation has collected more than 2.6 million nappies through its bi-annual drives since 2013.
The May collection drive spans 66 cities and towns across Australia, with 445 Drop Points where people can donate nappies.
To find your nearest Drop Point visit www.thenappycollective.com.au
*Name changed to protect privacy