In April 2015, npower launched ‘Fuel Bank’, its initiative to help foodbank users with pre-payment meters. The first of its kind, the project aimed to help those being forced to choose between ‘heating and eating’ by offering them vouchers for gas or electricity.  

Durham Christian Partnership worked closely with the fuel poverty charity National Energy Action and npower to develop the scheme, and were the first food bank in the UK to start issuing the vouchers to people referred to the foodbank.

The Fuel Foundation now operate the fuelbank with the support of Durham Christian Partnership in the County Durham area.

People using the foodbank are in financial crisis and this impacts not only their ability to buy food but also to pay for energy to heat their homes or cook their food.  The fuel vouchers from the Fuel Foundation mean people can cook, heat their homes and have hot water.

“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.”



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 Fuel Bank® scheme 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 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.

“Thank you so much for all your help and support - you are a true tonic for a weary soul.”

Who can receive support from Fuel Bank®?

The 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. 

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, Cit
    izens 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.