The Princess of Wales has praised the “lifeline” of support provided to parents by baby banks during a visit to a charity gearing up for the festive season.

Kate helped volunteers decorate a Christmas grotto filled with toys and called for the service provided by the organisations, which distribute everything from nappies to baby clothes to families in need, to be “normalised”.

She toured Sebby’s Corner, a baby bank in Barnet, north London, to learn about its work helping provide much-needed items to parents across the capital and neighbouring Hertfordshire.

Royal visit to Sebby’s Corner
The Princess of Wales speaks to Bianca Sakol founder of Sebby’s Corner (Frank Augstein/PA)

Families are referred by professionals like midwives, health visitors and teachers, and since its formation in January 2021 more than 5,000 have received donations.

With the country in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the baby bank has seen a year-on-year increase in referrals.

Speaking to members of the newly formed Baby Bank Alliance, Kate said: “The work going on here is so essential… you are such a lifeline in so many ways, but you’re also hidden.

“We need to be able to normalise this and make this more visible.”

Sebby’s Corner is preparing to open its grotto on Monday and has 4,000 presents available for the 1,400 children whose parents use its services.

Royal visit to Sebby’s Corner
Kate helps stack shelves with toys in the festive grotto at Sebby’s Corner (Frank Augstein/PA)

Kate eagerly got to work helping to put out donated toys, hanging festive bows, and she found space on a shelf for numerous copies of a popular children’s book she donated, The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson.

Her visit launched a campaign by her Royal Foundation to encourage the public to donate goods, money or their time to support their local baby bank, and the princess described Sebby’s Corner, founded by Bianca Sakol, as “impressive”.

A mother who has been using the Barnet baby bank for the past 12 months chatted to Kate about her experiences and was asked by the royal how she thought awareness could be raised about its work.

Jennifer, a 43-year-old from Barnet, who has a five-year-old daughter, replied: “Sometimes people don’t know how to ask, that’s a struggle as well. There is a stigma, unfortunately.

“Just reaching out and letting them know these things are there… it’s OK not to be OK sometimes – we can’t go through life on our own.”

Royal visit to Sebby’s Corner
Kate chatted to members of the new Baby Bank Alliance (Frank Augstein/PA)

Kate had a wide ranging chat with members of the Baby Bank Alliance, which has 50 founder members and aims to increase the profile and impact of the work undertaken by the sector.

The group discussed the growing need for their services and how working families were using baby banks, and the princess commented on parents “re-using soiled nappies” adding: “Some of these stories that you hear are really desperate.

“That’s why places like this need to be part of every community but also normalised, put on the same platform. So the general public do see these needs of these families – in a way that’s valued.”