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First ever Fuel Bank opens in Wales

The Trussell Trust and energy supplier npower is today launching the first ever Fuel Bank in Wales. 

Based at Cardiff Foodbank, the scheme gives Foodbank users with pre-payment meters vouchers for gas or electricity, so they do not have to choose between ‘heating and eating’.

Because the scheme gives people around two weeks’ worth of energy, the value of the voucher will fluctuate between the winter and summer months: from April to the end of October the value will be £30 and this will increase to £49 from 1st November to 31st March.

First launched in April 2015 with the Trussell Trust, National Energy Action (NEA) and Durham Christian Partnership, the npower Fuel Bank™ has so far been trialled in four areas (Kingston on Thames, Durham, Gloucestershire and the Wirral) and is now being rolled out more widely.

Before making the decision to extend the scheme, npower commissioned NEA, the UK fuel poverty charity, to undertake an evaluation of the scheme. In-depth interviews with a sample of people who had been helped by the Fuel Bank found that many were from households with dependent children, while almost a third said someone in their home suffered from ill health or a condition made worse by the cold. The inability to afford adequate power interrupted ordinary family life which in turn exacerbated conditions such as stress and anxiety*. 

Rebecca, the first recipient of the npower Fuel Bank voucher in Wales, lives with her four children and had to take the difficult decision to leave work as a qualified beauty therapist to support her eldest child.  Rebecca said: “Without the help of the Foodbank and Fuel Bank I would not have had electric for a week and would have struggled to feed my children.  I often have to borrow from my father to help me pay the bills - he has mental health problems and I worry about the extra stress this puts on him. The food and fuel voucher has helped enormously.” 

The scheme is for people with a valid Cardiff Foodbank voucher, who, if eligible to receive the credit, could use it to repay emergency credit and top up their gas and electricity meter. This enables households that have run out of energy to get the power back on within a few hours and keep the lights and heating on for around two weeks.

Cardiff Foodbank was set up in 2009 and between April 2015 and March 2016, gave out 12,078 three-day emergency food supplies to local people in crisis, 4,851 of which were given to children. 31% of people used the Foodbank due to delays in receiving their benefits and 25% were on low incomes. 

Catherine Williams Operational manager of Cardiff Foodbank, said “Whilst we have been able to give people food we have often come across people who say they are unable to cook it.  Being part of Fuelbank will mean we know that not only will people have a warm meal but they will be able to shower and heat their homes this has an enormous benefit it terms of health and wellbeing.”  

Guy Esnouf, npower’s Director of Corporate Responsibility said:

“Our first step was to trial the Fuel Bank in four areas last year. This proved the concept works - getting the right support to the people who need it most. We’re now expanding to ten new areas – including opening Fuel Banks in Wales and Scotland – meaning we can reach thousands more people in crisis.”