More than 1,000 people in Durham helped by Fuel Bank scheme

Lynn Burrows and her daughter Jorja were helped by the Durham Fuel Bank earlier this year.
Lynn Burrows and her daughter Jorja were helped by the Durham Fuel Bank earlier this year.
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A scheme which provides funds to pay for energy, alongside emergency food, has already helped 1,241 people in Durham this winter.

The npower Fuel Bank aims to remove the stark choice between heating or eating by giving foodbank users with pre-payment meters vouchers for gas or electricity - whether or not they are npower customers.

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.

Since the Fuel Bank scheme launched locally in Durham in April 2015, over 18,500 people have been helped, including almost 7,000 children.

And now the provider has announced that 1,241 people have been helped since the launch of the winter fuel voucher on Wednesday, November 1.

The scheme is a partnership between npower, the Durham Christian Partnership, and The Trussell Trust, and now runs in 14 areas and 65 foodbank centres.

To date it has helped nearly 78,000 people across the UK, providing more than £1.5 million worth of emergency gas or electricity.

It is hoped that with the recent launch of the npower Foundation, an independent charity, Fuel Bank will be able to help even more people in fuel crisis.

Lynn Burrows, a client at one of Durham’s Foodbanks, explained how she ended up there and how the fuel voucher helped her and her family.

“Last February, I was diagnosed with cancer and very quickly taken in to surgery," she said.

"It didn’t leave much time to organise time off work, benefits, care for my kids, and all the rest.

"By the time I got out of hospital, the benefits still hadn’t come through and we only had child support to rely on.

"It was an awful few weeks.

"The food parcels and fuel vouchers were a saving grace.

"They kept us afloat and sane until the money started coming through and my energy levels picked up post-surgery.”

Commenting on the figures so far this winter, Matthew Cole, npower’s head of Social Energy and Trustee of the npower Foundation, said: “As winter starts to bite it is clear that the npower Fuel Bank is offering a much-needed lifeline, providing warmth and hot water, as well as electricity and gas to make a cup of tea or to warm up some soup.

"Through our new npower Foundation – the npower Fuel Bank charity – we hope to raise more funds so that fewer people have to make the choice between heating or eating.”

Stuart Hudson, manager of the Durham Foodbank, added: "The foodbank and Fuel Bank complement each other to support people in a crisis situation.

"This has never been more important as we are experiencing an increase of referrals by 40% year on year in those areas where full rollout of Universal Credit has occurred.”

Fuel vouchers are £30 in the summer months and £49 from November 1 to March 31.