Scotland’s first ever “fuel bank” has launched in Glasgow, offering pre-pay meter vouchers to those struggling to afford to light and heat their homes.
The initiative, which gives people who are suffering from food poverty pre-payment meter vouchers for gas or electricity, is available at Glasgow South East Foodbank.
First launched in April 2015 with the Trussell Trust, National Energy Action (NEA) and Durham Christian Partnership, the npower Fuel Bank has previously been trialled in four areas – Kingston on Thames, Durham, Gloucestershire and the Wirral – and is now being rolled out to ten other locations in the UK.
The scheme is for people with a valid Glasgow South East Foodbank voucher, who, if eligible to receive the credit, could use it to repay emergency credit and top up their gas and electricity meter.
Single parent Clare lives in a two-bedroom flat with her two adult sons, and was one of the first clients to receive a fuel voucher.
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She said: “I came into the food bank and was told I could get immediate help with my fuel, too – this has made the world of difference this week and given me that little bit of freedom and breathing space, so I don’t have to think about finding extra cash to top up my meter for warm water and warm food.”
A survey carried out by NEA of people who had used the fuel bank elsewhere in the UK found that many were from households with dependent children. Meanwhile, almost a third said someone in their home suffered from ill health or a condition made worse by the cold. Respondents said the inability to afford adequate power interrupted ordinary family life, which in turn exacerbated conditions such as stress and anxiety.
Jim Robertson, Scotland development officer for Trussell Trust, said: “The partnership between npower, the Trussell Trust and Glasgow South East Foodbank is very good news.
“It could help stop the dreadful choice between feeding your family and heating your home. That’s got to be a step in the right direction for people experiencing a crisis.”
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 support to the people who need it most.”
A person is living in fuel poverty if, to heat their home to a satisfactory standard, they need to spend more than 10 per cent of their household income on fuel.