“I mean we're now seeing poverty I thought I would never see again,” Gordon Brown says.

The former prime minister mentions a dad who took his teenage son into a charity warehouse just a few weeks back and walked away, saying he could no longer afford to keep him.

He also points to research published in the Lancet showing a stark rise in the number of children being taken into care and the link to poverty.

“People who are on low incomes, many don't have cookers, many don't have fridges, many children are sleeping on anything other than bed,” he says.

“Families are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“Across the United Kingdom as a whole, there's been an increase in the number of children going into care because of poverty, not because of neglect.”

The ex-Labour leader is speaking to The Herald as he announces an expansion of the Multibank which he established with online retail giant Amazon in Fife and Wigan.

The ambition is to open another six across the UK, including one in Glasgow.

READ MORE: Amazon multibank: Gordon Brown’s charity donated 1.5 million items

Today, at an event in London, Comic Relief and Amazon will announce the launch of a dedicated Multibank Fund to help finance the expansion of the initiative.

The goal is to support 500,000 families from by the end of 2024.

The idea is simple, companies have surplus goods that people need, and charities know the people who need them.

They operate like a food bank but also provide clothes, furnishing, toiletries, and baby goods.

Many of the donations to the multibank are returns to Amazon, or obsolete stock or items from companies no longer in business.

Others are items that would normally head to landfill.

Hotels would normally only use their bedsheets a maximum of 80 times before binning them, despite being in near-perfect condition.

So far, 1.5 million essential items have already been passed on to more than 150,000 families.

A recent survey of low-income families who had used the multibank in Fife found that 11% believed they would have had to put their children into care, had it not been for the help offered.

“What we're seeing is an avalanche of need, but we need the supplies to meet that need,” Mr Brown says.

“I think as we expand into new areas, we will need new suppliers and potentially new funders, but we are determined to help those areas where the greatest need exists and where low-income families are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“And particularly so this winter.

“We understand the problems that people face because just about everything has gone up in price. But charities are finding it difficult too.

“It's not that less people are giving it's that people have got less to give.”

READ MORE: Gordon Brown: Poverty is the most critical issue facing Scotland

There is, he says, an “increasing epidemic of poverty” in Britain, with children going to school hungry, unwashed and unclean.

Schools are now having to install washing machines, while poor hygiene, he warns, is fast becoming a public health problem.

“Bronchitis, scarlet fever and rickets caused by low levels of vitamin D and calcium are also joining malnutrition as medical problems doctors are having to address, with about 1,000 cases a year in England and Scotland now.

“Tooth decay among children with no access to an NHS dentist is also on the rise.”

The Herald:

Mr Brown points out that the UK is now “as divided as we were in Victorian times.”

The income of our top 0.1% – about £9,615 a week – is now 100 times more than that of a universal credit claimant on £92 a week.

Mr Brown, who was the UK’s longest serving chancellor, hopes Jeremy Hunt will act when he sets out his tax and spending plans in next Wednesday’s autumn statement.

But with reports suggesting the Chancellor might use the sharp drop in inflation to cut social security payments, he is not hopeful.

“Next week the Chancellor should instigate a root and branch review of Universal Credit, the starting point to address Britain's long-term poverty crisis.

“But with a new coalition of compassion between companies and charities this winter, we can at least begin to ease the sorrows of Britain's left-out millions, relieve a mounting public health crisis, and at last as more businesses respond, show that we really are all in this together.”

READ MOREAmazon-backed scheme to help thousands of families with household essentials

While the online sales giant Amazon has donated the bulk of products to date, the Multibank concept has attracted support from many others, including Accrol, the toilet paper manufacturer, who are now committed to making extra stock just for the project.

Other supporters include the Bell Group, Blue Earth Clean, Craig & Rose Paint, Fishers Laundry, Kraft Heinz, Morrisons, The Paint Shed, PepsiCo, The Purvis Group, Scotmid, SemiChem, Tesco, Unilever, The Textile Services Association, Whitbread and Vision Linens.

At a meeting at Marlborough House in London, Mr Brown will invite more firms to join what he’s describing as a “coalition of compassion.”

John Boumphrey, Amazon UK Country Manager, said: “Our goal is to help as many families as possible by connecting surplus essentials from Amazon and other businesses, with those who need it most.

"We’re incredibly proud of the impact the multibanks in Fife and Wigan are having and we are committed to expand to six sites nationwide next year, but we need more donations.

"We’re calling for businesses to come onboard and join our coalition of compassion – help us to ensure that no good product goes to waste, and no family goes without the basics they need.”