Former PM Gordon Brown launches scheme in Wales to support families in poverty

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has launched a new charity project in Wales to help support families in poverty.

Cwtch Mawr – Welsh for “big hug” – the country’s first “multibank”, would help relieve “the poverty and destitution in our midst”, Mr Brown said at the opening of the service on Wednesday.

A multibank works like a food bank but also provides non-perishable goods such as cleaning products, toys and clothing.

The scheme, run from a warehouse in Swansea, is expected to provide essentials to more than 40,000 families this year.

Cwtch Mawr will be run by Swansea-based charity Faith in Families, with support from Mr Brown, the Welsh government and Amazon, who co-founded the multi-bank initiative.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Brown said: “I’m seeing poverty I never thought I would see again in my lifetime, having grown up in an industrial mining community, where there was a lot of poverty. And now we’re seeing a repeat of that.

“There are 2,600 food banks across the country, but we know we need to take a holistic view of the needs of a child and the needs of families.

“That’s why we’ve got not just a food bank, but a clothes bank, it’s a furnishings bank, a toiletries bank, a baby bank, these are all basic essentials that families need.”

Mr Brown said it would be better if multibanks did not have to exist but that there were millions of people in poverty who needed help.

This is the third multibank in the UK, with the first established by Mr Brown in Fife, Scotland, in 2022, followed by a second in Wigan last year.

By the end of 2024, the project aims to support more than half-a-million families from a total of six multibank sites across the UK.

The outgoing Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, who attended the opening, praised the organisations who had worked together to make Cwtch Mawr a reality.

But he said: “In one way, I’d like to see no (food banks) across Wales, because it’s here because there’s poverty and need.

“I’d much rather that we were able to eliminate that. While we live with it, then there’s a chance to do more.”

He added: “I wish that we didn’t need projects of this sort, to provide the basic things that people need to live an ordinary life. That’s what you see here. These are not luxuries.

“These are things most families are able to take for granted and yet there are too many families in Wales today at the end of a decade and more of austerity, who simply can’t put shoes on their children’s feet, or don’t have nappies that they can use for their babies.”

He said the multibank scheme may not work everywhere due to the number of groups that needed to get involved from across the public and private sectors, but he said there were discussions for further sites, potentially in north Wales.

John Boumphrey, UK country manager at Amazon, said they wanted to encourage other businesses to get involved with the project.

He said the existing facilities were already helping families in poverty while “contributing to a more circular economy”.

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