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Fuel poverty charity tops one million and calls for more support from government

July 17, 2023

Fuel poverty charity tops one million and calls for more support from government Featured Image

The number of people helped by fuel poverty charity Fuel Bank Foundation has topped one million, as demand for support continues to rise in the face of higher energy costs.

The charity, which provides emergency fuel vouchers to people who can’t afford to top up their prepayment meter, has seen a year-on-year increase in the number of people turning to it for help since it was set up in 2015.

In its first year, Fuel Bank Foundation helped 14,500 people, compared to 413,700 in the past year alone – almost half of the one million people helped in the last eight years.

Now the charity is warning that without further government support to help vulnerable households with their fuel bills this winter, more people will be forced into fuel poverty.

“Reaching the one million customers milestone should serve as a wakeup call to the Government. People are really struggling financially and need help. It may not feel like something that needs tackling right now, especially with the warm weather the country is experiencing, but the Government does need to urgently put in place a plan for the coming winter."
Matthew Cole, Head of Fuel Bank Foundation

He continued “The ongoing cost-of-living crisis, rampant inflation, and interest rates at their highest since 2008 mean household budgets are being squeezed from all directions. On top of this, energy bills are still at historically high levels, despite the recent reduction in the price cap.

“The Government’s Energy Bill Support Scheme provided a much-needed lifeline for millions of people struggling with their bills, particularly those with prepayment meters, but with the scheme having now ended, and no plans in place to renew it, some customers face a very worrying and uncertain future.”

Mr Cole said the rise in the number of people needing Fuel Bank Foundation’s help was putting extra pressure on services.

“We have expanded our operations in order to increase capacity to cope with demand, and now operate a network of 600 Fuel Bank Centres across the UK, but like many charities our services are still very stretched.

“The problem is exacerbated by the fact higher energy costs have reduced the value of our fuel vouchers. During the peak winter months, a £49 top up was only lasting a few days and, as a result, we were seeing a lot more people returning to us for help.”
Matthew Cole, Head of Fuel Bank Foundation

In response, Fuel Bank Foundation launched a repeat fuel voucher scheme, in which previous recipients of a voucher automatically received another without having to reapply. Over a 12-week period, 48,000 repeat fuel vouchers were awarded, totalling £2.2 million in additional financial support.

Mr Cole said: “Recognising that fuel vouchers weren’t stretching as far, we decided to automatically issue another voucher a week after the first was received to cover any potential shortfall in credit on the meter. This has been well received by clients, who have greatly appreciated the additional support.”

Fuel Bank Foundation also launched an awareness campaign to inform its clients about the Government’s Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS), after figures from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero showed that millions of vouchers for prepayment meter customers had gone unclaimed. The charity also participated in the Government’s recent Claim Your Energy Voucher Day.

In addition to providing emergency fuel vouchers to households with a prepayment meter, in 2021 Fuel Bank Foundation launched its Heat Fund, for homes not connected to the gas grid. There are approximately two million homes in the UK that rely on alternative fuels, such as heating oil, LPG, biomass, coal or wood, for heating.

Since its launch, the Heat Fund has helped 1,000 people.

A Thank you from Matt