The Fuel Bank® scheme
Fuel Bank® is currently available in selected Foodbank locations across the UK, and provides a top up voucher for approximately two weeks’ worth of fuel to clients with a prepayment meter and who have been deemed as in ‘crisis need’ by an independent Foodbank referrer.
The scheme helps prevent self-disconnection (where a client cannot afford to top up their meter) and ensures people are not left without energy for the basics like cooking and heating.
Why was the npower Fuel Bank® set up?
The number of people seeking help from Foodbanks in the UK has risen significantly in the last few years, as they face difficult decisions around where to spend limited income. We find that they’re often also in fuel crisis and have to make the choice between ‘heating or eating’, which can lead to a series of health issues if they decide to ‘self-disconnect’. We believe that people shouldn’t have to make this choice, which is why the npower Fuel Bank® was set up.
Fuel Bank® makes a significant difference to those receiving help and ensures they have access to energy for things like cooking, heating and lighting. It also provides some breathing space while they resolve the underlying issue.
The Trussell Trust
This charity was set up to end hunger and poverty in the UK through a number of projects and initiatives across the country. The largest of these is their Foodbank network, which provides a minimum of three days’ emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. They also provide other valuable services at the Foodbanks such as Fuel Bank®, and financial advice, to help people to break the cycle of poverty.
npower Foundation – the Fuel Bank® charity
npower Fuel Bank® has helped many people in crisis since it launched. However, it currently only operates in selected Foodbanks and the need is much greater.
We believe Fuel Bank® support should be available to more people in crisis across the UK, so an independent Fuel Bank® charity - the npower Foundation - was set up to raise the financial support needed for this. Anyone can donate to support the expansion of Fuel Bank® to more areas.
Who can receive support from Fuel Bank®?
The npower Fuel Bank® was designed to use the existing Foodbank referral process, so only people with a valid Foodbank Voucher for a Fuel Bank® location are eligible. You don’t need to be an npower customer to benefit from the Fuel Bank® scheme.
To receive support from the Fuel Bank®, you need to:
- Be a Foodbank client who has been referred by a third party such as a GP, Social Worker, Citizens Advice (and other agencies) because you are in crisis need for food. You can’t receive a fuel voucher if you don’t need food as well.
- If you then take the food voucher to your nearest Foodbank and it is part of the Fuel Bank® scheme, and you have a prepayment meter, you may be eligible for a fuel voucher as well as a food parcel. If you are, an application would be filled in for you.
Fuel Bank® is only available at a limited number of Foodbanks across the country. However, there is other support available if you are in fuel crisis or struggling to manage your fuel costs.
“In July 2016, my grandmother passed away. Six months later, my younger brother died a week before his 26th birthday. Six months after that, this week, my aunt passed. I just can’t quite take it all in.
“I never knew funerals were so expensive. It’s not the kind of thing you’re meant to know at 28, but my mum was in no state to handle the arrangements and there was no one else to do it. She’s had to take a leave of absence from her part-time job and isn’t really managing. I try to help financially but I’m in college full-time, training to be an electrician. I was struggling to keep my head above water before all this but I know, if I want to give my remaining family a real future, I can’t drop out now, I have to qualify.
“We used all the money we had and it still wasn’t enough, so we took out a loan to pay for the funeral - we couldn’t just leave her unburied. Then there was nothing left. Food always comes first but we could barely even afford that.
“When I visited the Foodbank, they told me I could get help with fuel costs too. Collecting that fuel bank voucher was a huge relief. It allowed us to keep going physically whilst we waited for the mental scars to heal. I hope they’ll heal, but I fear we might need more help in the meantime. It’s nice to know the Food- and Fuel Banks are there though - it makes you feel like there’s someone out there that wants you to keep going, that believes you can do it.”
I’m a full-time carer for my 19-year-old daughter and had to have a back operation myself last Christmas. It wasn’t the best time for the accounts to have gone amiss. A couple of direct debit payments came out early and that was that: no money, with benefits not due for two weeks. The Food Bank and the Fuel Bank tided me over until the child benefit came in. Without that I would have had to go hungry – I have in the past and try my best not to go there again.
“We’ve had mothers coming here after doing the school run, to have a bit of warmth, unable to go home because their houses are freezing. People are faced with the choice of buying food or heating their home, some are unable to do either. The Fuel Bank™ allows us to give that much more immediate help. It’s not just topping up their gas and electric, it’s giving them their dignity back: they’re able to go home and have a hot meal, have a hot shower, as well as heat their homes.”
Pat works for the Foodbank in Glossop, where we launched Fuel Bank™ in April 2016. Pat managed the ‘Bellies not Bins’ programme which refers local people in crisis into the Foodbank.
“We often get people coming to us asking if we have anything they don’t need to cook because they are experiencing fuel poverty. For a while our volunteers had been giving people the odd fiver to put on their meter, but we couldn’t sustain that. When people come to the Bellies not Bins programme (which refers people into the Foodbank) they often have a crisis happening in their lives and are finding it difficult financially. The Fuel Bank™ allows us to give people food they can cook, and extra financial support for their energy costs, meaning they have some extra cash to get out of other debt they might be experiencing.”
Other support available
If you are in fuel crisis, or struggling with your fuel costs, it’s best to contact your energy supplier who will be able to provide the right support for you. This could be an application to a Trust or Grant scheme, emergency pre – payment support, or making sure your energy account is set up to meet your specific needs.
npower have a number of other schemes that can provide additional support, visit our meeting your needs page for more information.
npower customers should call: 0800 073 3000 or 0330 100 3000, lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, Saturday 8am to 6pm. We may monitor and/or record calls for security, quality or training purposes. Calls to 0800 numbers should be free from all mobiles and generally free from all landlines. Calls to 0330 numbers will cost you no more than 01 or 02 numbers from landlines or mobiles. If you get ‘inclusive minutes’ with your package, calls to 0330 numbers will be part of these.
If you are not supplied by npower, you’ll need to call your energy supplier for support.