Steve McCabe MP has welcomed the first fuel banks opening in Birmingham which will help some of the most vulnerable people in communities across the city.
The Trussell Trust and energy supplier npower are today launching the first ever Fuel Banks in Birmingham. Based in Foodbanks at B30 (Pershore Road), Smethwick and Kingfisher, the scheme gives foodbank users with pre-payment meters vouchers for gas or electricity, so they do not have to choose between ‘heating and eating’.
Because the 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 £30m and this will increase to £49 between 1st November to 31stMarch.
First launched in April 2015 with the Trussell Trust, National Energy Action (NEA) and Durham Christian Partnership, the npower 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 to ten new locations, including three in Birmingham.
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 npower Fuel Bankfound that 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. The inability to afford adequate power interrupted ordinary family life which in turn exacerbated conditions such as stress and anxiety.
Steve McCabe MP said:
“I think this is a great initiative to help support some of the most vulnerable people and families in our community. I don’t believe that anyone should have to choose between heating and eating particularly given that the UK is one of the richest countries in the world but unfortunately this is a situation that many people on low incomes face. Having met with some of the people that are accessing the fuel bank it’s clear that this makes a real difference to their lives.”
B30 Foodbank client Clarea mother of two young children and a regular user of the Foodbank said:
“My partner and I live in a first floor flat with our two boys. It is important we keep our home warm because of my disability – and damp conditions within the flat mean that we have a weekly heating bill of £60, which we struggle to pay. Having the voucher has been a god-send as I’ve been able to keep healthy by heating our home, cook hot meals and keep the children warm – simple things we all do every day and often take for granted.”
The scheme is for people with a valid B30 (Pershore Road), Smethwick, or Kingfisher Foodbank voucher, who, if eligible to receive the credit, could use it to repay emergency credit and top up their gas and electricity meter. 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.