Main content

Fuel Bank™ scheme reaches 50,000 people helped

A scheme which helps remove the stark choice between heating and eating has now helped 50,000* people across the UK, including 6,500* people in Birmingham and the Black Country.


The npower Fuel Bank™ scheme gives foodbank users with pre-payment meters vouchers for gas or electricity. 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. In the winter months, the value of the voucher is £49 and households can receive help regardless of whether or not they are npower customers.

The scheme which launched in the West Midlands in May last year at three foodbanks - B30, Smethwick and Kingfisher – has already issued around 2,600** vouchers, helping around 3,700 adults and 2,800 children* across the region.

Speaking at the B30 Foodbank, Tony, a Fuel Bank™ voucher recipient, said: “I was transferred to Universal Credit, but had no warning. When I went to my bank I was told there was no money. The Job Centre said there was nothing they could do. Having the fuel voucher is really important to me, especially during the winter.”

Helen Gale, Manager of the B30 Foodbank said: “This scheme really does help us to offer almost immediate support to those clients who find themselves faced with the awful choice of feeding themselves and their families or keeping warm. It is especially important that this scheme supports those on prepayment meters who are often the most vulnerable.”

Gareth Brown, Director of Smethwick Church Action Network that manages Smethwick Foodbank, said:  “The npower Fuel Bank scheme has provided those who receive an emergency food parcel with additional assistance that can make a real difference.   Many of those who come to Smethwick Foodbank centres often face multiple challenges and providing a range of support such as Cooking Courses, Budgeting, Friendship Groups and more recently Energy support, helps people tackle those challenges. 

“We recently had someone referred to us with issues of debt, physical health problems, anxiety and depression.   Being able to offer a fuel voucher alongside advice on energy savings proved invaluable in helping this person as they had to follow a budget plan to get the out of debt.   The fuel voucher eased some of the anxieties this person faced and we are grateful that we can go beyond just the emergency assistance of a food parcel to really help people tackle the multiple issues that often cause the crisis in the first place.”

The scheme is a partnership between npower, National Energy Action and The Trussell Trust, and now runs in 14 areas and 59 foodbank centres across the country.

Matthew Cole, head of policy & social energy at npower, said: “The npower Fuel Bank™ gets immediate help to people when they find themselves in a crisis. With three Fuel Bank areas, the West Midlands is one of the most active areas in the UK and on average this winter has been giving out one fuel voucher every 15 minutes***.”

 

Notes to Editors

*This is a measure of people helped by the fuel bank since the scheme began, but it is not a measure of unique individuals. Some people were helped more than once.

** This is a measure of households (this could include single and families) helped by the fuel bank since the scheme began, but it is not a measure of unique households. Some households were helped more than once.

*** Based on the three Fuel Banks in the West Midlands area: B30, Smethwick and two distribution centres in Kingfisher, collectively opening 17 hours per week, over a 15 week period during the winter months of  1st Nov – 10 Feb, totalling 255  hours. These four sites issued a total of 984 vouchers during this time, averaging 3.9 vouchers per hour, roughly 1 every 15 minutes.

Number of people helped/vouchers issued correct as of 20th February 2017.

How the npower Fuel Bank™ works:

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

Step 1

Individuals who are identified as being in need of emergency food 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 has a prepayment meter (PPM) for electricity and/or gas, they may be eligible to apply for a top-up voucher. There is a limit on the number of vouchers a client will be issued, and 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 Bank™ voucher 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 of the application being submitted (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 Banks™ code 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.