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Wales’s first ‘multibank’ will provide essential items to people in need

A new initiative to provide essential goods to struggling households has been launched in Swansea.

Cwtch Mawr, Wales’s first ‘multibank’, was officially opened today by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister.

Multibanks are based on the foodbank model, but provide a wider range of non-perishable goods, enabling businesses to redistribute surplus unsold items to people for free.

Cwtch Mawr will be supported by donations from Amazon and other companies, including cleaning wipes, sanitary products, toilet paper, kitchen rolls and toys. New and reusable household goods, food, clothes, toiletries, furnishings, bedding, children and baby goods are expected to be provided in future.

The multibank model encourages businesses to cut down on waste through the creation of a bank of surplus household goods. Cwtch Mawr plans to donate more than 300,000 surplus essential goods to 40,000 families in poverty this year.

Cwtch Mawr will be run by Swansea-based charity Faith in Families, with support from Gordon Brown and Amazon, who co-founded the multi-bank initiative. The Welsh Government is providing £125,000 for the start-up of the project, with other support coming from local partners including Swansea Council, Pobl Housing Association and The Moondance Foundation.

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Mark Drakeford said:  

“The Multibank is a fantastic model, with businesses based locally donating goods which can then be provided free to people who need them, helping to keep money in their pockets. Cwtch Mawr will help people who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis to access essential goods and support easily in one place.

“This is an excellent example of the public, private and voluntary sectors coming together to support people in their communities. I’m proud Welsh Government is supporting this project and hope to see it expand over the next five years.”

Gordon Brown said:

“The cost-of-living crisis has for too many families become a real, day-in-day-out struggle to make ends meet because the money simply runs out before the end of each month. We have designed the Multibank initiative to accept returned, surplus or overruns of goods from UK companies and via local charity partners, like Faith in Families, we can get items like nappies, school uniforms, dusters, and duvets, straight into the hands of social workers, teachers, and health practitioners for social prescribing. The business partners who have joined our Coalition of Compassion are directly able to alleviate immediate need for warm clothes, hygiene products and essential household items to support those who need them at the time they actually need the help.”

Cherrie Bija, CEO of Faith in Families, said:

“When people come together to support each other we all will have a better life. Cwtch Mawr is a collaboration of different sectors wanting to bring hope and support to those who face some of the most challenging situations in life, right here in our communities. This big Welsh Hug can be transformational for Swansea and South Wales. From gifting children with brand-new football boots so that they can take part in their school team, to maternity packs for new Mums so they can have dignity going into hospital, these things really matter.  People are barely surviving right now, children are normalising discomfort and hunger, individuals are facing hopeless situations. Cwtch Mawr will make a difference in people’s lives and for the planet, a real anti-poverty, anti-pollution, engagement solution.”

John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said:

“We are delighted to bring together this coalition of partners to launch Cwtch Mawr, Wales’s first Multibank. Our two existing Multibanks are having a huge impact across Scotland and Greater Manchester, helping families in poverty while contributing to a more circular economy by putting surplus products to good use. I’m very grateful to the many colleagues from across Amazon who have brought their logistics expertise, passion for innovation, and dedication to helping our local communities, to this project, and who will enable us to support tens of thousands of families across South Wales this year, and beyond.”

Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip Jane Hutt said:

“With multibanks, people struggling with the cost-of-living will be able to access essential goods for free, which can be a huge benefit when household finances are tight. Meanwhile, retailers will be able to support the circular economy, reducing their carbon footprint, while contributing to their local communities.

“Our Child Poverty Strategy commits to working together with others to tackle child poverty. It has been humbling to see the impact this facility has had on the local community and the difference it has made to many people’s lives.”