Main content

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.”

Notes to Editors

Sheffield’s Fuel Bank™ is located at:

St Thomas Philadelphia - The Chapel, 6 Gilpin Street, S6 3BL

 

*The Fuel Bank™ Research can be viewed on the NEA website at:www.nea.org.uk/?p=1523

**Name changed to protect identity  

 

How the npower Fuel Bank™ works:

 

The npower Fuel Bankpilot has been designed to utilise the existing foodbank referral process.

 

Step 1

Individuals who are identified as being in crisis by care professionals, such as Citizens Advice, GPs, social workers or police, are issued with a foodbank voucher to redeem at their local foodbank.

 

Step 2

When the individual goes to the foodbank with their voucher, if their household is supplied by npower on a prepayment meter (PPM) for electricity and/or gas, they will receive a top-up voucher. As standard customers will be issued a maximum of three vouchers in 6 months, and not receive more than one voucher within 10 days. This is checked by Charis Grants who administer the scheme on npower’s behalf prior to the voucher being issued

 

Step 3

npower will provide a Fuel Bankvoucher to the client via text message or email or if the client doesn’t have a phone or email account the voucher will be emailed to the foodbank within 24 business hours (vouchers are not issued on weekends or bank holidays). If required the foodbank will then contact the individual via an agreed means to share the voucher.

 

Step 4

The client then takes this code to any shop with a PayPoint machine where it can be redeemed against electricity and/or gas using their pre-payment key or card at no cost to the customer. The npower Fuel Bankscode can only be used for electricity and gas.

 

Step 5

Once the code has been redeemed, when the individual puts the relevant pre-payment key or card in their meter or meters the money will appear as a credit.

 

For further information please contact:

 

Zoe Melarkey, npower PR manager, 07795 354 559 Zoe.Melarkey@npower.com

Andy May; Andy.May@trusselltrust.org

Abby Jitendra: Abby.Jitendra@trusselltrust.org