Sheffield foodbank teams up with npower to give out fuel vouchers

Sheffield S6 Foodbank at the Chapel at St Thomas Philadelphia on Gilpin Street. Pictured are volunteers Andrew Hook and Dave Burton.
Sheffield S6 Foodbank at the Chapel at St Thomas Philadelphia on Gilpin Street. Pictured are volunteers Andrew Hook and Dave Burton.
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A Sheffield foodbank is helping to keep vulnerable people warm as part of a national fuel voucher scheme.

Sheffield S6 Foodbank is working with its parent charity the Trussell Trust and energy firm npower to create a fuel bank to try to stop people having to choose between ‘heating and eating’.

Any of its clients who use pre-payment meters with npower or any other energy supplier will be eligible for credits worth £30 from now until October. This will increase to £49 between November 1 and March 31 next year.

The foodbank, based at the Chapel at St Thomas Philadelphia in Gilpin Street, off Penistone Road, gave out more than 60 tonnes of food in the last financial year.

The foodbank, based at the Chapel at St Thomas Philadelphia in Gilpin Street, off Penistone Road, gave out more than 60 tonnes of food in the last financial year.

“It’s about helping people in real need and real poverty,” said foodbank co-ordinator Chris Hardy.

“It takes that pressure and stress off. We have issued about a dozen fuel vouchers in the first week and already you can see the relief in people’s faces.

“The penny drops that they can put the central heating on for the first time in a couple of months or have a hot meal. It’s a basic necessity the likes of you and I take for granted.”

The fuel voucher scheme began as a three-month trial in Kingston on Thames, Durham, Gloucester and the Wirral in April last year. It has now been expanded , which is now being rolled out to 10 more areas.

Trussell Trust chief executive David McAuley said: “In winter, food bank clients come to us having to choose between going hungry or heating their homes, and in summer, we find some people come to us saying they can’t afford to heat the food parcels we give them.

It’s heartbreaking when people in desperate situations try to give back food like pasta and soup simply because they can’t afford to cook it.”

National Energy Action chief executive Jenny Saunders added: “The fuel bank has made a significant impact in the four pilot areas.

“The majority of people we spoke to were in a critical situation and had self-disconnected or were close to doing so. The fuel voucher made a real difference to these families.

“We found it not only enabled reconnection to energy supplies or helped avoid self-disconnection, it also helped families with their wider household budget, relieved stress and anxiety and enabled access to the basics of family life that are often and rightly taken for granted by most.”

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 10 new areas - including opening fuel banks in Wales and Scotland - meaning we can reach thousands more people in crisis.”