TOOTHPASTE, deodorant, soap – these are just a few of the everyday products we use each day without a second thought.

But what happens to those who can no longer afford to buy them?

A ‘hidden’ poverty is forcing many Wirral families to forgo basic hygiene needs just to bring food to the table.

From young girls rinsing out tampons to parents scooping waste from nappies, thousands of families across Wirral are forced to make a heartbreaking decision to either feed the family, heat the home or be clean.

This is known as hygiene poverty - where people can’t afford basic personal toiletries such as toilet roll, toothpaste or deodorant.

Before heading to foodbanks, nearly 1 in 5 of Wirral’s families have taken hygiene essentials off their shopping list.

But one volunteer is doing everything in her power to ensure no family goes without.

Steph Fraser, a trainee health care partner and mum, lives and works in Wirral.

As her neighbours struggled to make ends meet, she realised that families were not purchasing shampoo, razors and even toilet rolls in a bid to keep their finances above water.

She got in contact with The Hygiene Bank a few months ago – a national UK charity highlighting the plight of those who can no longer afford ‘the gift of dignity.'

Now, seven donation points exist across the borough, supplying hygiene products to those in crisis.

In her eyes, too many families suffer in silence.

Steph told the Globe: “When you read about poverty, you don’t think of the families that wash their hair with fairy liquid.

"You don’t think about your colleagues washing in the toilets, or your classmates who never brush their teeth.

“Young girls end up missing school because they’re on their period. Children come in with stains on their clothes.

"It’s hard to imagine this could happen in this day and age – but that’s the problem with hygiene poverty. It’s invisible. It’s everywhere.

“When you’re struggling to make ends meet, hygiene can feel like the least of your worries - but hygiene is not a luxury. It’s a basic human right.

"Everyone has the right to good hygiene, but here in Wirral, people are making the choice between staying fed and staying clean.”

Since the launch of the project, stories have emerged from members of the community who have bravely shared their experiences.

A local teacher, who wants to remain anonymous, claims they took it upon themselves to buy school uniforms after one mother received a knock-back for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

They said: “Her children started to come into school with dirty clothes. This was really unusual, because before it all started, they would always come in well kept.

“As the weeks went by, toilet rolls went missing. We found them, hidden inside their PE kits. It broke my heart.

“Their clothes were covered in washing up liquid stains. I realised that mum had been washing their clothes in the same water she had been using to wash her dishes – because she couldn’t afford to use her washing machine.

"I think she’s faced with a decision – feed the kids, or keep them clean.”

The shame and stigma of hygiene poverty can lead people to take drastic action to improve their circumstances – yet a lack of hygiene can leave poverty victims trapped in a vicious cycle.

This, in turn, is creating a ‘crisis of confidence’, alongside a melting pot for poor mental health for families in Wirral.

For Steph, a key motivator was not only her own daughter, but the possibility that other children in her class may be struggling.

Steph said: "Something that really motivates me is the thought of children in my four-year-old's class not having access to the same products as her, like having fun in the bath in the evening or having their own toothbrush to use."

Despite the stigma, Steph remains thankful for the support from the local community.

Steph said: “The support from the local community and neighbouring organisations has been phenomenal and Wirral has always been a generous place.

“It’s full of community spirit – everyone wants to help you out, and everyone sticks together.”

The Hygiene Bank are calling on members of the public to put aside any excess toiletries for families in crisis.

The charity are asking for all manner of donations, from toothpaste to nappies, in a bid to give struggling families the ‘gift of dignity’.

Their “It’s In The Bag” campaign asks members of the public to fill a handbag or rucksack with bathroom essentials for males and females.

Last year, The Hygiene Bank gave out 3,558 bags out across 438 donation centres across the UK. This year, they want to give out 5,000.

To find out more about The Hygiene Bank, visit their website at: or visit

Drop off locations in Wirral:

ASDA Liscard - Seaview Road, Wallasey – CH45 4NZ

Inspire Coffee Bar - The Spire, Breck Road, Wallasey – CH44 3BD

The Coffee Roast - Vale Park, Magazine Lane, New Brighton, CH45 1LZ

Lattetude - 8A Dee Lane, West Kirby, Wirral – CH48 0QA

Leasowe Millennium Centre - Twickenham Drive, Leasowe, Wirral, CH46 1PQ

Lloyd’s Pharmacy - 35 Grange Road, West Kirby, Wirral – CH48 4DZ

Wallasey Central Library - 17 Earlston Rd, Wallasey – CH45 5DX