Former prime minister Gordon Brown has told how a charity project he helped create which donates surplus items to those in need is seeking to expand to help more families who are facing “another tough winter”.

The Multibank, which was set up by online sales giant Amazon along with the former Labour leader, has already donated some 1.5 million essential items to more than 150,000 households in both Scotland and the Greater Manchester areas.

Simon McMahon, of Amazon UK’s Impact Team, said the initiative had “grown rapidly” and had already “far exceeded our expectations”.

In January 2022 the online retailer began working with a group of charities brought together by Mr Brown, donating items that had been returned to it to those living in poverty from a dedicated warehouse in Lochgelly in Fife.

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Working with the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy, the Multibank operates a “click and collect” service for more than 1,000 local charities and professionals – such as social workers, teachers and midwifes – to access goods from the warehouse to help those in need.

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Goods such as bedding, toilet roll, nappies, wipes and toiletries, as well as clothing, backpacks, home furnishings, lightings and electrical products have all been donated, or banked, at the warehouse – which was provided free of charge by Bob Purvis, chairman of The Purvis Group.

This year the Multibank launched a second site in Greater Manchester, where it is working with The Brick charity in the Wigan and Leigh area.

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Most of the items donated come from Amazon, but the project has also been supported with donations from companies including Morrisons, Tesco, SemiChem, Scotmid, PepsiCo, Unilever, Kraft Heinz and others.

Mr Brown thanked bosses at Amazon for “their willingness to experiment with redistributing their returned goods to families in need” in what he described as a “path-breaking new model” which shows that “big corporations can do real social good at a grassroots level”.

He also thanked those who had worked with the Multibank in both Fife and the Greater Manchester area, with the former prime minister adding: “We look forward to working with the pioneering systems created especially for us by Amazon to scale and speed up our own delivery operation as we seek to reach and support even more families facing another tough winter.”

Mr McMahon, the senior programme manager for the Multibank in Amazon who has overseen the project from the start, said the initiative had “grown rapidly since we first started last year”.

He added: “There is no other project like it, offering this type of support to people for free.

“The success of the Multibank has far exceeded our expectations – we’re now supporting over 150,000 families and 1,000 charities and trusted professionals across the two sites to date in Fife and Wigan.

“But we continue to be ambitious as more charities and businesses join the Multibank coalition in helping those who need it most.”