Energy vouchers solve foodbank users' 'heating or eating' dilemma
A scheme giving energy vouchers to people who use foodbanks is to be extended to more areas to stop them having to choose between heating and eating.
Npower will give credits worth Â£30 from this month to the end of October increasing to Â£49 from November 1 to March 31 - around two weeks' worth of energy - in partnership with charities the Trussell Trust and Durham Christian Partnership, as well as National Energy Action (NEA).
A three-month trial began in Kingston on Thames, Durham, Gloucester and the Wirral in April last year, which is now being rolled out to 11 other areas.
People using pre-payment meters with npower or any other energy supplier, who are referred to a foodbank, will be eligible for the vouchers.
David McAuley, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: "In winter, food bank clients come to us having to choose between going hungry or heating their homes.
"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."
NEA chief executive Jenny Saunders said: "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."