What problem are you solving?
Many people have to make the choice between heating and eating, because they are unable to afford to do both, and subsequently do not top up their Pre–Payment meters – leaving them without gas and electricity for cooking, heating and hot water.
With 20% of people in the UK living in low income families, around 1.6m people each year face this choice. The npower Fuel Bank® scheme was launched to make sure fewer people have to face that choice and in the longer term, to ensure everyone has access to energy for the basics.
How do you do this?
Fuel Bank® operates in selected foodbanks and provides emergency fuel top up vouchers to people with Pre-Payment meters who are in fuel crisis and unable to top up their meter. The voucher provides immediate relief, allowing families to get back on supply and have access to gas and electricity for the basics.
We launched the npower Foundation, the Fuel Bank charity, in 2017 to raise the funds needed to make the scheme available to more people. We’re currently building additional partnerships and identifying other funding sources in order to do this.
What difference are you making?
Fuel Bank® makes a real difference, by:
- Getting families back on supply almost immediately, so they can cook the food given at foodbanks and put the heating back on.
- Improving mental and physical health by ensuring one less thing to worry about.
- Giving people in crisis the breathing space to get back on their feet and solve the underlying issue.
So far, npower has helped over 130,000 people through the Fuel Bank®, 49,000 of which were children.
Fuel Bank® has also been expanded to additional Foodbanks by The Trussell Trust, and the npower Foundation to ensure as many people as possible benefit.
Fuel bank user, Sai, applied for universal credit while he was seeking work. At the point of applying, Sai only had £30 left from his more recent pay cheque. Processing his application took 7 weeks, during which time he had no income. When he had to consider how to spend his last £10 he bought a large bag of biscuits for his dog. He found the voucher from Fuel Bank was a lifesaver; it meant he could put food back in his cupboard and turn the lights back on.
“I’ve always worked, I’m a care worker and used to looking after other people. I’ve got problems with my health at the moment and I’ve had to stop working to sign up for benefits. A couple of months ago the payments were delayed and I ran out of money. I’d already borrowed from my family so I couldn’t ask them again. I was panicking. The house uses electricity for everything and I had about 3 days left with half of the winter to go. My daughter and I cut down on food choosing to eat simply rather than not at all but it was awful.”
What practical actions can be taken from your work?
- People can talk to their suppliers if they are unable to afford to top up their meter to see what additional support is available, including asking about grants to improve heating and insulation, energy debt funds, appliance replacement funds, and debt advice.
- Talk to the npower Foundation – new partnerships can make the scheme available to others