Can a toy really help mend a broken heart?

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Ten thousand toys were packed last weekend for delivery to children across the UK who have had to leave their homes because of abuse experienced in the home.

The charity KidsOut, which has its headquarters in Church Square, Leighton, has been coordinating the toy box appeal for the past ten years helping to give comfort and hope to traumatised children, but in the last year the number of children they’ve been asked to help has more than doubled.

Chief executive Gordon Moulds said: “We regularly send out 800 boxes of new toys to children coping with the loss of their home and the breakup of their family, but this year we’ve already had requests for more than 1,700 toy boxes by women’s refuges across Britain. The toys are vital tools to help children cope and feel a sense of normality and love in their lives.”

Around 19,000 children are moved each year from their homes in the UK because of abuse and violence.

Many arrive in refuges in cities and towns across Britain with just a plastic bag of grabbed clothes. KidsOut contacts them and not only provides a toy box full of new toys for each child but also helps with new clothes and more importantly a mentoring system for each child.

This starts with a day out with other children who face similar problems and then for older children a chance for radio and drama workshop courses, art courses and even a chance to apply for an apprenticeship with the BBC.

Companies and charities like the Kindness Offensive, Ravensden, Diglot Books and Aurora have donated many of the toys.

More than 30 volunteers packed 800 boxes of toys last weekend at Stansted Airport. Some of these boxes will be ready for the Christmas period – one of KidsOut’s busiest times of the year.

Workers at KidsOut who are in constant touch with domestic violence refuges say children are often brought in after seeing everything they own smashed in front of them and favourite toys ripped or thrown away.

KidsOut will be meeting Members of Parliament to lobby for more support to be given to children in Britain living with domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Mr Moulds added: “For years we’ve been helping the most immediate problem, dealing with the first part of surviving the abuse but now we want the Government to take notice that the abuse has an impact for years and years.

“It’s known that a high proportion of these children end up in crime when they get older. That’s because there is not enough support at the very time they need it.”

Once children turn 16 in England they are not supported through the refuge system and often drift back to the family and the place where the abuse happened because they have no where else to go. In Scotland, children are supported until the age of 21.

Mr Moulds said: “We know the Government is looking at this issue but we will be campaigning to make them take action to help children rebuild their lives and break the cycle of violence, low self esteem, abuse and crime.

“It seems incredible but it can start with just a new toy and that’s why what is happening now with a group of volunteers and donations from businesses and toy manufacturers can actually make a difference in Britain in years to come. We start small but there’s not just a toy in the bottom of that box, there’s hope.”