THOUSANDS of families hit by hardship during the coronavirus crisis have received vital aid from a York-based support service.

The Family Fund Business Services helped to deliver essential items to 135,000 households impacted by the pandemic within just six months. This was 10,000 more than in the whole of the previous financial year.

The FFBS's half-year figures for 2020/21 reflect how they worked with customers to deliver support to thousands more households in new or increased hardship.

The FFBs provides essential goods and services, from white goods and furniture to energy and food vouchers, to support charities, local authorities, housing providers and other organisations.

The crisis resulted in a huge increase in grants made by FFBS’ customers as they supported those directly affected.

The FFBS has also helped customers to set up and run coronavirus-specific schemes quickly as well as assisting with the administration of free school meal vouchers and self-isolation payments.

The company’s unique business model means all profits are donated as unrestricted funds to its parent charity, Family Fund, the UK's largest charity providing grants for families on low incomes raising disabled or seriously-ill children.

After raising £1.17 million for the charity in 2019/20, the FFBS generated £708,000 in the first half of 2020/21.

FFBS managing director Jill Wheeler said: “This has been an exceptionally busy year for FFBS and our partners who have seen an unprecedented need for increased support.

“Coronavirus has taught us to expect the unexpected and always be prepared. Investments in our technology over the past two years meant that the team were able to transition effortlessly to home working in March.

"This ensured we could not only maintain our service levels but also the increase in need for our services, which rose by up to 600 per cent in some cases, to support our customers and their beneficiaries though the pandemic

“As a nation we saw a mass closure of non-essential stores during lockdown, including many clothing stores; and the installation of certain household appliances was forced to pause.

"However, for someone fleeing domestic abuse, access to clothing is absolutely essential; and for someone trying to self-isolate at home, doing so without working appliances to cook meals or store food, poses a further risk to their health.

“What is essential when you are facing hardship is broader than we all think, and the FFBS team has worked tirelessly to ensure communities worst affected by coronavirus have been able to access financial help they need, quickly and effectively."

“We have strengthened relationships with our suppliers and worked in partnership with all of our stakeholders to deliver the best possible service in the most difficult of times.

“Most of all, the team have pulled together to support one another, in ways which I could not have imagined, and I am immensely proud of them all.”