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First ever Fuel Bank™ opens in Sheffield

The Trussell Trust and energy supplier npower is today launching the first ever Fuel Bankin Sheffield.   

 

Based at Sheffield’s S6 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 Banks™ 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*. 

After receiving her fuel voucher, Claire** a client of the S6 Foodbank said: “My benefits stopped a few months ago and I’m now undergoing an appeal. I came to the foodbank as I needed help with food and while I was there, I was referred for help with my fuel too.  I haven’t had money on my electric meter for over 3 weeks, before this, I was running on emergency, but it’s become a real struggle without hot water for such a long time. Having the fuel voucher has been a life-saver as I’ve been able to cook hot meals and have warm water for a bath – it’s also given me a little breathing space to help me think about other things.

The scheme is for people with a valid Sheffield 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.

 

Sheffield S6 Foodbank was set up in 2012 and between April 2015 and March 2016, gave out  5,020 three-day emergency food supplies to local people in crisis1,752 of which were given to children. 23% of people used the Foodbank due to delays in receiving their benefits and 13% due to debt. 

 

Chris Hardy, coordinator of S6 Foodbank, said “This is a wonderful partnership and gives us the opportunity to support low income families and people in real need  who are struggling with day to day living costs. The Fuel Bank allows us to give that immediate help – and having already issued 80 vouchers, we can visibly see the pressure and stress that comes off when they realise they can cook their food on the gas cooker and turn the lights back on.”

 

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 South Yorkshire – meaning we can reach thousands more people in crisis.”