'It's just a nightmare': Connors Toy Library at risk of closure within next 12 months

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Funding is needed in order to keep a phenomenal community charity afloat after its National Lottery funding has ended.

Connors Toy Library, which was established in 1973, has been supporting families in the Portsmouth area for over 50 years - but the team has been faced with a dreadful financial situation. The charity was initially funded by the Lord Mayor Dennis Connors Fund and over the last 12 years, it has been supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and community grants - but the funding has now come to an end and the charity is being kept open by spending its reserves.

The charity offers families the opportunity to borrow toys, attend play groups and receive support from other parents and specialists. With the charity having to dip into its reserve funding, it has announced that it will only be able to remain open until next March if they do not receive any additional financial help. Last year, the charity ran 397 Toy Library sessions with 1249 families (1307 adults and 1554 children) attending, with 73 per cent borrowing toys and resources for ongoing play and development at home. 

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Connors Toy Library is at risk of closure after losing its national lottery funding. Connors Toy Library is at risk of closure after losing its national lottery funding.
Connors Toy Library is at risk of closure after losing its national lottery funding. | Connors Toy Library

The charity also works with children who have special education needs and, last year, 788 children with additional needs benefitted from attending a session or borrowing toys and resources.

“We have managed to keep hold of our reserves so we have been using that for now - but when we get to the end of March next year we will just have to shut so we are really trying to get funding.

“We are an independent charity and we are always looking for any funding we can get - it would be really good if local people and businesses can help us.

“A lot of people have said ‘this is my lifeline’.

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Connors Toy Library is at risk of closure following the lack of funding. Connors Toy Library is at risk of closure following the lack of funding.
Connors Toy Library is at risk of closure following the lack of funding. | Connors Toy Library

“It has never been about making money, it has always been about giving back to the community.”

People in the community have significantly accessed the charity’s resources over the past year with 181 families, foster carers, settings and organisations taking up membership to the Toy Store. The outreach project has also supported 106 hard to reach and vulnerable families by offering them one-to-one support through home visits and access to the toy library sessions.

Karen said that she has had a number of parents expressing their devastation at the prospect of the charity closing down next year as many people have formed friendships through the toy sessions. As well as the incredible impact that the charity has had on families across the city, it has also been activitely helping the environmnet by reusing and recycling toys. Karen added: “It is huge. It isn’t just sitting in a group and playing with toys. It has had a huge impact on families.

“I know funding is getting harder and harder to find - people have less money to give away but it is such a crucial service.”

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