Long Live School Uniform: Our Collaboration With The Hygiene Bank

In early 2021, we reached out to The Hygiene Bank to discuss how David Luke School Uniform could support the work they do to help those of us experiencing hygiene poverty in schools. The Hygiene Bank believes that everyone deserves to have access to the basics. Those of us who haven’t the means to keep clean may find options are restricted. Personal care and care for our clothing seem like such important levellers within the school environment. With our Eco school uniform, we really hope to be able to provide a great leveller too, but also understand buying clothes and keeping them clean can be a challenge for those of us on low incomes. This is why David Luke worked with The Hygiene Bank to help those who are struggling with hygiene poverty in schools; from raising awareness of National Hygiene Week to pledging 5% of our sales during July 2021 to support the work they have been doing in schools.

What is hygiene poverty?

Hygiene poverty is not being able to afford many of the everyday hygiene and personal grooming products most of us take for granted. The reality of low income is that it restricts people’s options, leaving us caught between being able to heat our homes, pay the rent, eat or be clean. Hygiene poverty is struggling to wash your hair because you can’t afford shampoo. It is not being able to launder school uniform or muddy sports kit. It is going to school with matted hair because there is only one hairbrush in the household and there’s no time for everyone to get a chance to use it. The more we learned about hygiene poverty, the more compelled we were to work with The Hygiene Bank. 8 in 10 primary school teachers say that they’ve seen a rise in the numbers of children coming to school unwashed or not looking presentable in the last five years and have found themselves intervening at an increasing rate. Nearly half of all teachers said they had seen bullying because of hygiene issues. (source: In Kind Direct, 2017) 3 out of 10 teachers regularly buy their pupils toiletry essentials. (source: In Kind Direct, 2017)

The Hygiene Bank

The Hygiene Bank’s story started with the film ‘I Daniel Blake’ by Ken Loach, a moving and harrowing film that exposes the harsh realities of those in our society who fall through the cracks. After watching the film, The Hygiene Bank’s founder Lizzy Hall visited her local food bank who confirmed that toiletries were donated but only on an ad hoc basis. Friends who were teachers talked of girls improvising with loo roll or scrunched up socks in their pants as sanitary protection. They talked about the impact of hygiene issues on social exclusion and how they and many of their colleagues resorted to buying pupils shampoo and deodorant or washing their school uniform. Buying the basics like period products, shampoo, toothpaste or deodorant when we need them is something most of us take for granted. For many on a low-income however, especially those who rely on food banks, these essential products have become out of reach luxuries. Illness, disability, family breakdown or loss of a job can leave people destitute, and these unplanned events can happen to anyone. Sadly, hygiene poverty comes with a social stigma that affects all areas of life, work, school and relationships. We know that a lack of access to hygiene products impacts confidence, self-esteem and prospects in those who are most vulnerable. People miss out on employment and promotion opportunities. Women find themselves housebound because they can’t afford period products, children skip school because they don’t have clean uniform or PE kit. Hygiene poverty is humiliating and so galvanised to do something, Lizzy put out a plea for hygiene and personal care products to her friends on WhatsApp. Donations flooded in – the reaction was overwhelming and extremely moving and Lizzy realised she had tapped into people’s desire to help. All she had to do was find a way to facilitate this… within a few weeks The Hygiene Bank was born.

David Luke Kindness Currency

In 2021 we launched our Kindness Currency, and The Hygiene Bank were our first recipients of a sales-led donation. We believe in the positive power of school uniform. We worked with The Hygiene Bank as we share the belief of The Hygiene Bank that everyone deserves to have access to the basics. We pledged to donate 5% of our sales turnover in July to The Hygiene Bank to help them to reach their goal of ensuring everyone has the means to access essential hygiene products.

A Discussion With The Experts

As part of our work together we will explored some of the social issues surrounding school uniform and the deeper implications of our campaign to encourage families to Re:Uniform. We also hosted an Instagram Live discussion with The Hygiene Bank, Sarie Taylor and our Managing Director Kathryn Shuttleworth to discuss this further. The Hygiene Bank believe it is not right that feeling clean should be a luxury or a privilege for anyone in our society, yet many are living in poverty and cannot afford to stay clean. That is why their network of projects exists – to give people access to the basics they need. The Hygiene Bank is a grassroots, people-powered charity and social movement, grounded in community. Their passion stems from the injustice that people may be unable to fully participate in society due to hygiene poverty. This is why we worked together to inspire social change.