The Trussell Trust and energy supplier npower today (Friday, May 13) launched the first Fuel Bank in Hastings.
The scheme gives foodbank users pre-payment meter vouchers for gas or electricity.
Representatives of Hastings Foodbank, npower and other agencies met at today’s launch at The Hastings Centre, on The Ridge.
Because the new scheme gives people around two weeks’ worth of energy, the value of the voucher will fluctuate between the winter and summer months.
From April to the end of October the value will be £30 and this will increase to £49 from November 1 to March 31.
Hastings Foodbank is run by volunteers from Churches Together and Kings Church Hastings.
Between April, 2015, and March, 2016, the foodbank distributed 4,044 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in Hastings, 1,506 of which were given to children.
First launched in April last year with the Trussell Trust, National Energy Action (NEA) and Durham Christian Partnership, the Fuel Bank has so far been trialled in four areas (Kingston on Thames, Durham, Gloucestershire and the Wirral) and is now being rolled out more widely.
Before making the decision to extend the scheme, npower commissioned NEA, the UK fuel poverty charity, to undertake an evaluation of the scheme.
In-depth interviews with a sample of people who had been helped by the Fuel Bank found many were from households with dependent children, while almost a third said someone in their home suffered from ill health or a condition made worse by the cold.
Jeff Beale, coordinator of Hastings Foodbank, said: “The partnership we’ve built with npower, through the Trussell Trust, gives us the opportunity to support low-income families or people who are struggling with day-to-day living costs. The Fuel Bank allows us to give that 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.”
Matt Cole, head of policy and social energy action for npower, said: “We’re investing £2.25 million over the next three years across 10 different parts of the UK in 67 different distribution centres so people can be provided with emergency top up gas and electricity.
“People who have benefited are saying things like they’ve been able to cook a warm meal in a week.
“The scheme is not just for npower customers. It’s for everyone who needs emergency top up power.
“We set it up in Hastings because we were blown away by the enthusiasm from staff at Hastings Foodbank.”
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