An initiative which aims to remove the stark choice between heating or eating has helped over 1,700 adults and nearly 1,500 children in Coventry since opening its doors a year ago.
The npower Fuel Bank® has been created to help foodbank users with prepayment meters who are struggling to pay for gas and electricity, and are at point of having to live without heating, cooking or lighting.
Regardless of their supplier, the Fuel Bank gives these people around two weeks’ worth of gas or electricity**, allowing them to have hot meals, hot showers and heating again.
According to npower’s own research with Fuel Bank users, 34% of people have already run out of gas or electricity when they receive the vouchers, with a remaining 60% living on the meter’s emergency credit. Over half of people spoken to are having to choose between heating or eating at least once a week and 15% are making this choice on a daily basis.
The npower Fuel Bank is a partnership between npower and The Trussell Trust and operates in eight Foodbank centres in Coventry.
James, a client of the Coventry Foodbank in Willenhall added “I recently went to a foodbank and they helped me get a voucher for gas and electricity. It has meant that I can have heating on for a few hours each day. Before, I had to decide if I could have the heating on or not. I’m grateful for the support they’ve given me.”
Commenting on the first anniversary of opening the Fuel Bank in Coventry, Matthew Cole, npower’s Head of Customer Vulnerability and Trustee of the npower Foundation, said: “Already, after just one year, we can see that the Fuel Bank is making a real difference to people in Coventry. I’ve talked to clients we’ve helped whose money wouldn’t stretch to topping up their electricity or gas meter, and how this has a knock-on effect on their health, or their children’s wellbeing. I’ve also met people who are struggling to find work because they can’t have a hot shower or wash. Through the Fuel Bank and the Foundation, we’re trying to make sure no one has to face these issues.”
Hugh McNeil, manager of the Coventry Foodbank, said: “The Fuel Bank has become an important part of our work at the Coventry Foodbanks. As we talk to our clients, it’s obvious when they’re struggling with their energy: people ask for a ‘kettle pack’ – with food like packet soup or noodles, that just need hot water – or even a ‘cold pack’ with crisp, peanut butter and crackers, that require no cooking at all. The ‘heat or eat’ dilemma is a daily issue for many of our clients and the fuel voucher means we can give them practical and immediate help.”
How the npower Fuel Bank works
The npower Fuel Bank™ has been designed to utilise the existing Foodbank referral process developed by The Trussell Trust.
Individuals who are identified as being in crisis by care professionals, such as Citizens Advice advisers, GPs, social workers or police, are issued with a foodbank voucher to redeem at their local foodbank.
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 an independent third party who administer the scheme on npower’s behalf prior to the voucher being issued.
npower will provide a Fuel Bank™ voucher to the client via text message or email. 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.
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 prepayment 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 prepayment key or card in their meter or meters, the money will appear as a credit. The voucher provides up to two weeks’ worth of free energy.
About the npower Foundation
npower, working with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), has established the npower Foundation, an independent charity, to widen the reach of the Fuel Bank support.
The vision and mission for the npower Foundation is as follows:
Vision: A UK where everyone has access to energy for the basics: heating their home, using hot water, keeping the lights on and cooking food
Mission: Developing sustainable solutions to address fuel crisis, through innovative investments, partnerships and research
Raising £1million over the next two years would enable the npower Foundation to deliver support to an extra 42,000 people. For more information on the npower Foundation, please visit npower.com/npowerfoundation