A community shop which helps disadvantaged families in Halton has scooped a prestigious award for enterprise.

The UK’s first social supermarket chain Community Shop, which has a branch in Runcorn, has received the Queen’s award for enterprise in the promoting opportunity category.

The company’s network of six shops is open to individuals and families who are in receipt of welfare support and are motivated to make a difference in their lives.

Community Shop provides members with immediate access to high quality, low cost food and essential products and, to address the physical and psychological impact that a prolonged lack of food access can bring, it also offers life-changing personal development support.

It helps to rebuild lives and develops long-term aspiration change in communities and has helped almost 8,000 families across England providing more than 30 million meals.

The company has also supported 642 members back into employment and helped 809 people into further education.

Through its range of bespoke personal development and mentoring programmes, Community Shop offers support with building confidence, budgeting and nutrition as well as employment and empowerment, enabling members to eventually return to mainstream shopping with increased skills and a clear life plan.

One member of the scheme, Mandy, said: “Being out of work I have found it hard keeping warm with the cost of electricity and food, so shopping at Community Shop really helped me.

“I have met new friends since attending the community hub and it has helped me work within a team.

“I did not have much self-esteemed or confidence and was not good at interviews.

“I had one interview and was put on the waiting list - there were 1700 applicants for 50 jobs.

“I found out in January that I was successful so, after being out of work for over a year, I am now employed again and I want to thank Community Shop for believing in me and helping me I feel so positive about my life.”

Through its sustainable model, Community Shop is able to work closely with members and communities on a long-term, sustained basis, which supports social mobility, promotes inter-generational aspiration and helps to break long-term dependence on food aid.

Steph McGinty, group managing director of Company Shop Group, said: “Community Shop’s achievement today is testament to the hard-work, dedication and constant innovation of our amazing colleagues, the many organisations and supporters we work closely with every day, as well as our generous and long-standing industry partners.

“With this support, we are able to deliver the best outcomes for the thousands of individuals and families we support across the UK.

“We look forward to continuing to maximise the impact of our work, as we further expand our Community Shop network to provide food access and life-changing personal development support to even more people.”

Natalie Brown, head of Community Shop, added: “We are honoured to have received a prestigious Queen’s Award for enterprise, recognising our commitment to promoting opportunities and improving the lives of those we support across our Community Shop network and beyond.

“It has been an extraordinary year for Community Shop, with the provision we deliver being more important than ever for families across the UK.

“Our brilliant teams have continued to connect, engage and inspire every member who comes through our doors and as a result, we continue our work to build stronger individuals and more confident communities.”