UK children in need of shoe donations as poverty levels soar

Dan Whitehead, news correspondent

A British charity which distributes children's shoes to those living in poverty around the world says it is seeing an increase in the number of requests within the UK – including from schools.

Sal's Shoes was set up five years ago by mum CJ Bowry - who was unable to find a use for her son's shoes when he grew out of them.

When the charity began, 5,000 pairs of shoes were donated - last year that number rose to more than 300,000, with shoes now sent to children in more than 43 countries, primarily in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe.

But CJ told Sky News that increasingly the barely-worn shoes are needed closer to home.

She said: "Most children in the UK, at the start of the academic year, need a pair of school shoes, so we started this initiative at the end of the summer term which allows children in the UK to donate their school shoes if they are likely to outgrow them and we get them back into education somewhere else."

CJ says the organisation now gets contacted by those in need in the UK on a daily basis.

"I think schools and social workers obviously know the family circumstances of the kids they're working with and they know the struggles the families are facing," she said.

"So when they know organisations like ours, they know who they can contact."

She added: "We've had emails from headteachers who noticed pupils in their schools who are in need of new pairs of school shoes and their parents can't afford it."

One headteacher who approached Sal's Shoes was Roy James, of Ysgol Y Bedol school in Ammanford, Wales.

He told Sky News the school already sends food parcels home with some pupils - and is now helping to provide shoes to children most in need.

"If I'm honest with you, some children would be coming in with, for example, holes in their shoes, some would be coming in where the heels were literally scrapping off the shoes," he said.

"So we felt, hang on, we need to do something about this and try to support these children however we could, so those were the obvious signs that we have to put some intervention in to help these families."

According to think-tank The Resolution Foundation, child poverty will rise within the next five years equivalent to an extra one million children in poverty in the UK by 2023-24.

It's a fact that CJ says is reflected in the charity's ever-growing demand.

"UK poverty levels are rising and certainly our child level poverty and all the indicators show the increase, and parents are struggling," she said.

"I think it is now coming down to whether you can force a new pair of shoes for your child or something else - like food, or paying the gas or electricity bill."