npower helps 1000 people in need through Durham Fuel Bank pilot
These vouchers have benefited 674 adults and 350 children in the local area; foodbank voucher holders have been able to visit a County Durham food bank operated by Durham Christian Partnership, part of the national Foodbank Network (supported by Trussell Trust) and receive a £49 credit which they can use to top up their gas and electricity meter.
A 60 year old voucher recipient from Durham Dales said; “The fuel voucher has helped me immensely. I’ve had problems with my hips and had multiple hip replacements. I was taken off Job Seekers and put onto ESA, I’ve been suffering from depression and diabetes. While I was waiting for the change in benefits to be processed I didn’t have a lot to live on. Having the fuel voucher helped lift a whole weight off my mind.”
This has enabled local 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 up to two weeks. All households using pre-payment meters can benefit, regardless of whether or not they are npower customers.
The npower Fuel Banks have been launched to address the problem of households who ‘self-disconnect’ in order to save money. Research conducted by Citizens Advice found that one in every six homes that use a prepayment meter has self-disconnected, meaning up to 1.62 million people go without electricity or gas each year.
The npower Fuel Bank is being piloted in County Durham and three other regions; if successful, npower hopes to extend the initiative nationwide. The ambition is to support up to 13,000 households in the first year.
Guy Esnouf, Director of Corporate Responsibility at npower, said: “Our Fuel Bank trial aims to provide immediate and hassle free support to those in need so they don’t have to make the difficult choice between food and warmth, and to then help identify other schemes that may be able to provide longer-term support I’m delighted with the success of the trial in Durham and I am thrilled that we have been able to work with the Durham Christian Partnership to help tackle the issue of fuel poverty in the area.”
Peter MacLellan, Chief Executive at the Durham Christian Partnership, said: “Fuel poverty is a critical issue in the County Durham ; we’re see many people coming to us because they’re struggling to heat their homes or even cook their food. The Fuel Bank scheme has made a huge impact, giving our users a vital lifeline during difficult times.”
Jenny Saunders, Chief Executive of National Energy Action, said: “There are over 26,000 households living in fuel poverty in County Durham. Many of these will be making the daily choice between ‘heating or eating’. During times of crisis low-income households face considerable challenges in balancing competing demands on their household budget and making ends meet. NEA is delighted to be supporting the fuel bank pilot in Durham, which is reaching out to some of the most vulnerable people in the county, helping them to have both food and heat/power at a time of crisis and to access longer-term energy-related support.”
Alison Inglis-Jones, Trustee at the Trussell Trust, said: “We are very pleased with the impact that the scheme has had on fuel poverty in Durham. These npower Fuel Bank vouchers mean that as well as offering food to people in need, we can now give them the energy they need to cook it and heat their homes too.”
Additional case studies for editorial use
Disabled mother of two
“I’m disabled and currently not employed but my husband works. Normally we get by fine. We’ve got two children, one under 5 and the other in their early teens. We had been told we were exempt from council tax, but then a change in circumstances meant we were issued with a large council tax bill. A council tax bill is important, if you get one you need to pay it and we did. But we were left with pretty much nothing to buy food and pay for electricity for the next couple of weeks. The gas and electricity voucher helped us out so much. It took the pressure off, a real weight of our shoulders. We were able to get by, still have hot water and things like that, until my husband got paid again.”
Durham City resident
“I got laid off from work in April. I used my last pay cheque to pay my council tax, car insurance and rent – I didn’t want to get behind with any bills. I went to the Job Centre to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance and immediately started job hunting, I didn’t want to stay on the dole, I desperately wanted to get back into work. My support worker from my housing association referred me to the foodbank, I didn’t really want to go but I needed some help. I didn’t want to ask my parents – they don’t have a huge amount of money themselves and they’d be worried sick. I went to the foodbank, and didn’t know about the vouchers for fuel. It was a massive relief to be given the voucher as I had pretty much run out of credit on my meters and had nothing to top them up with. I’ve now found a job and I should be starting in a couple of weeks. Thanks to the foodbank and the Fuel Bank I’ve been able to get through the last few weeks. It has helped me so much.”
Notes to editor
How the npower Fuel Bank works:
The Fuel Bank pilot has been designed to utilise the existing food bank referral process.
Individuals who are identified as being in crisis by care professionals, such as Citizens Advice Bureaus, GPs, social workers or police, are issued with a food bank voucher to redeem at their local food bank.
When the individual goes to the food bank with their voucher, if their household is supplied by a prepayment meter (PPM) for electricity and/or gas, they will receive a top-up voucher regardless of whether they are supplied by npower or an alternative energy provider. The issuing of a pre-payment top up is mirroring the eligibility criteria of the food banks, so individuals will normally be issued vouchers a maximum of three times per crisis. This would be managed via the care professional who completes the referrals.
npower will provide a unique npower Fuel Bank voucher either directly to the client via a text message or if the client does not have a mobile phone the voucher can be sent back to the food bank who will then contact the individual via an agreed means (email or in person) to share this voucher.
The individual 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 Bank code can only be used for electricity and gas.
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, 0779 535 4559 Zoe.Melarkey@npower.com
Peter MacLellan, Durham Christian Partnership, 0775 840 0128 email@example.com
Claire Henderson, National Energy Action, 0191 269 2909 Claire.Henderson@nea.org.uk
Andy May, Trussell Trust, Andy.May@trusselltrust.org