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Mark Drakeford and Gordon Brown launch ‘Multibank’ project

07 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Mr Brown, who was joined by First Minister Mark Drakeford, Amazon UK country manager John Boumphrey, Cherrie Bija, chief executive of Faith in Families, Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart, Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris and actor and Multibank ambassador, Arabella Weir. Image: Richard Youle

Richard Youle Local Democracy Reporter

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and First Minister, Mark Drakeford helped launch a donations hub which is set to help thousands of struggling families in Wales.

The new Multibank in Swansea provides items such as bedding, clothing, toiletries, toys, crockery and electrical goods.

All these products are new, or almost new, and are being redistributed by lead charity partner, Faith in Families, to charity groups and care professionals who give them directly to people in need.

Cwtch Mawr

It is the third UK Multibank, following ones in Scotland and the north-west of England, and is called Cwtch Mawr – meaning “big hug” in English.

The warehouse, in Swansea Enterprise Park, is staffed by five Amazon employees. It is not open to the public. The idea is that other companies donate unwanted new items as well as Amazon to make the project self-sustaining.

Mr Brown, who was joined by First Minister Mark Drakeford, Amazon UK country manager John Boumphrey, Cherrie Bija, chief executive of Faith in Families, Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart, Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris and actor and Multibank ambassador, Arabella Weir, described the formal launch of Cwtch Mawr as a great day for Swansea.

He said: “It’s also a great day for all decent people who care about our communities and who care about the destitution and poverty in our midst.”

The 73-year-old, who occupied Number 10 Downing Street between 2007 and 2010 after a long stint next door serving as Chancellor, said he was seeing poverty levels in the UK which “I don’t think I have seen in my lifetime”.

He spoke of “ill-clad” children, “ashamed” mothers and workers such as nurses and teachers visiting food banks because of the high cost of living.


Mr Brown said he had visited families who lived in a poor area of his home town and seen bedrooms without beds and floors without floor coverings. “No child should be growing up in those conditions,” he said. “It’s a situation we cannot allow to continue.”

Amazon’s Mr Boumphrey said he envisaged Cwtch Mawr helping 40,000 people in need in South Wales this year, and that the other two Multibanks had helped 200,000-plus people in 2023.

He said 20 Amazon staff had helped in the creation of Cwtch Mawr, and described the way it worked as a “unique redistribution model” which put items in people’s hands that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Mr Drakeford said current poverty levels were “absolutely distressing” and that the gap between those with everything they needed and those with nothing was widening. He said he had seen some “hard things” while working in Ely, Cardiff, in the 1980s but added: “I think today for some families it’s even tougher.”

Mr Drakeford said people who lived on traditional hand-me-downs, rather than the new items being redistributed by Cwtch Mawr, also had a “poverty of experience”. He said: “You are living a second-hand life. Everything you have is something that no-one else needs.”

“Easy decision”

Cllr Stewart said it was an easy decision for the council to support Cwtch Mawr, and that Swansea’s community spirit was being “brought large” to the initiative. One example of its impact, he said, was a pair of trainers being provided to a recently-arrived refugee boy who just wanted to take part in sport at his new school. The Swansea Labour leader said later that the council would invest £100,000 in the project in 2024.

Ms Bija, of Faith in Families, said she believed the project could be transformational. “People are barely surviving right now, children are normalising discomfort and hunger, individuals are facing hopeless situations,” she said.

Just over a fifth of people in Wales were living in relative income poverty between 2020 and 2022, according to UK Government figures. It’s a figure which has stayed relatively stable for more than a decade having come down from more than one in four at the time of devolution.

Mr Brown said he felt a fundamental review of the system of welfare payments known as Universal Credit was required but that getting immediate help to people in need was Multibank’s priority.

Amazon employee Alison Kimpton, who is now based  at Cwtch Mawr, said it was already making a “massive difference”. She gave an example of a mother and son in crisis who had been found a new place to live. The son, she said, loved Spider-Man but his mother was unable to buy him anything related to the superhero on his birthday. “We found him a costume, and even a Spider-Man cake,” she said.

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Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
4 months ago

Look what neo-liberalism has done to the UK.

Steve Heaney
Steve Heaney
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul ap Gareth

….and politicians line up for photo op’s at food banks and other charities without thinking that those food banks are there because of their failures.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
4 months ago

Food banks were a legacy of the Blair/Brown government.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
4 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Food banks are a legacy of tory Britain and deliberate tory policy choice!

The Trussell Trust, which support the largest network food banks in the UK, had around 35 food bank centres in 2010/11, 650 in 2013/14 and nearly 1300 in 2019/20!

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