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BHS workers turn to Charles Dickens' charity for handouts

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland workers who lost their jobs as a result of the collapse of high street stalwart BHS are understood to be among hundreds who have contacted a hardship charity once chaired by Charles Dickens.

The firm's administration affected 164 stores and 11,000 employees, including 152 staff at four outlets here.

The Fashion and Textile Children's Trust said it had received applications from a record 460 families over the past six months, and around 275 of them related to former BHS workers, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The charity was founded in 1853 by a group of merchants in the textile industry. It helps children whose parents work in retail but are struggling financially.

In August BHS workers in Belfast were left in tears as the shutters were pulled down on the city centre store for the last time.

Several of the 57 staff were long-serving, with many having worked there for 40 years-plus.

The collapse of BHS after 88 years on the high street affected a total of 22,000 pensions, and sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry.

Retail billionaire Sir Philip Green has borne the brunt of the public fallout, having been branded "the unacceptable face of capitalism" by MPs. Sir Philip owned BHS for 15 years before selling it to Dominic Chappell for £1 last year.

He came under fire for taking more than £400m in dividends, leaving BHS with a £571m pension deficit, and for selling the business to a man with no retail experience.

BHS International, formed by the Al Mana Group, is relaunching the brand online, allowing shoppers to buy products from 23 UK-based suppliers.

The company has stressed the online retailer has no links with Sir Philip or Mr Chappell.

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