THE number of children in financial hardship being referred to a Woking clothing and toy bank for school shoes and other essentials has more than doubled this year.

Jigsaw, which is based in The Lighthouse in the town centre, gives out backpacks with shoe vouchers,  underwear, socks, a cap and a water bottle to families in need every summer.

Emma Heather, who runs the project, said referrals of children has jumped from 225 last year to more than 500, mostly in and around Woking.

“Lots of the schools are referring sometimes double the number of children because their caseload of families in financial need has gone up,” Emma said.

“I think the increase this year is linked to the cost of living going up. Families that were just coping but struggling, have now been tipped into not coping.

“For those families who are already finding it difficult, the additional burden of providing their children with the basics to return to school in September can be overwhelming. This anxiety can weigh heavy on the parents’ shoulders.”

Jigsaw delivers the backpacks across South West Surrey and north Hampshire and also holds Back to School events where they can be collected, along with bigger items such as used school uniforms, Wellington boots and trainers.

Emma said a recent Back to School event at The Lighthouse was attended by about 120 people.

Throughout the year, families who are referred to Jigsaw by school family support workers, social workers and health visitors can collect donated clothes, nappies, toys, books and equipment such as pushchairs, highchairs and cots.

The project also holds annual Christmas Kindness events with items donated by local people.

The Back to School backpacks are donated by Stripey Stork, a baby goods bank based in Reigate, and the items inside are bought from financial donations.

School uniforms and footwear are donated by local people and new shoes are provided by Russell & Bromley, which has a branch in Guildford.

Jigsaw was started 16 years ago in the Old Woking Community Centre by a group of mums who handed out the clothes and toys their toddlers had grown out of to parents who couldn’t afford to buy them.

The project grew over the years and now occupies the whole basement of The Lighthouse.

Emma said: “We are inviting local people to join us in supporting families to send their children back to school in September with everything they need.

“Each pack costs £50 and our hope is that with the support of the community we can provide every child that needs one with a Back to School pack.

“These packs can help to significantly reduce the financial strain and pressure for some families and give children the basics needed to feel comfortable, happy, and confident as they return to school.”

Donations can be made by visiting

£10 can provide the basic essentials of new socks and underwear; £25 a school shoes voucher, helping a child go back to school with a good quality new pair of shoes