One of the country’s first fuel banks opens in Willesden
- Credit: Archant
One of the first fuel banks in the country has opened in Willesden to help residents struggling with paying their energy bills by prepayment meter.
Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, attended the launch of the npower Fuel Bank in St Mary’s Willesden in Neasden Lane, a scheme expanded by foodbank charity Trussell Trust and energy giant npower.
The scheme allows residents with a valid Brent Foodbank voucher to receive the credit which they can use to repay emergency credit and top up their gas and electricity meter.
Ms Butler said: “It’s great to see the Trussell Trust and npower Fuel Bank initiative receive the expansion that it truly deserves and I am proud to support it. The impact that the scheme has already had on the lives of so many foodbank users is profound.
“When evidence shows prepayment customers are paying on average £300 a year more than those on direct debit, the link between fuel poverty and prepay meters becomes clear.
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“There are over 6,000 fuel poor households in Brent Central and I hope that this service will go some way towards removing that tragic decision which many of them face; whether to heat or eat.”
Residents struggling to pay bills are given around two weeks’ worth of energy and the value of the voucher will fluctuate between the winter and summer months: from April to the end of October residents will receive £30 increasing to £49 from 1st November to 31st March.
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The fuel bank works by giving residents issued with a foodbank voucher a top up voucher if their energy is supplied on a prepayment metre.
npower provides the voucher via text message or email and the resident can then take the code to any shop with a PayPoint machine where it can be redeemed using their prepayment card.
Once the card is back in the meter the money will appear as a credit.
A maximum of three vouchers are issued in six months and no more than one voucher within 10 days.
Last year Brent Foodbank, run by the Trussell Trust, helped 2,075 people, including around 675 children under 16.
Michele Lawrence, manager of Brent Foodbank, said: “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 Fuelbank 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.”
Guy Esnouf, npower’s director of corporate responsibility said: “Our first step was to trial the Fuel Bank in four areas last year. This proved the concept works - getting the right support to the people who need it most. We’re now expanding to ten new areas across the UK – including opening Fuel Banks in Wales and Scotland – meaning we can reach thousands more people in crisis.”