Almost half of people referred to foodbanks at risk of going cold as well as hungry this winter

New data from charity's Fuel Bank scheme suggests families on pre-payment meters face cold and hunger this winter

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  • Foodbanks face busiest winter as new data suggests half of all people needing support from foodbanks are on pre-pay meters
  • Schemes like Fuel Banks getting immediate help to people in crisis
  • However, survey of 410+ foodbanks suggests help for people in fuel poverty is a postcode lottery

In winter time as temperatures drop, people who are on pre-payment meters are particularly at risk of falling into crisis as they have to choose between heating and eating.

Almost half of the people helped by Trussell Trust foodbanks and Durham Christian Partnership not only face hunger but may be unable to afford to keep their heating, hot water, or lights on. New data estimates that 46% of people* visiting their foodbanks are pre-payment meter customers, meaning they are at imminent risk of going cold and hungry if they can’t afford to put money on the meter.

This mirrors data from debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP). Nearly half (47%) of their clients given emergency food and on a prepayment meter had gone without heating or electricity for weeks over winter.

New data also finds that good and practical support for people in fuel poverty exists, but there is a postcode lottery in the type of support available. 6 out of 10 foodbanks can signpost people going cold and hungry to other forms of local support with energy costs. However, 4 in 10 foodbanks cannot, and only 1 in 7 foodbanks operate in areas where a local council-led fuel poverty scheme is running**.

Over December the Fuel Bank scheme, developed by npower in partnership with The Trussell Trust, National Energy Action, and Durham Christian Partnership, is being rolled out to 18 more foodbanks***. The scheme allows foodbank users on pre-payment meters to receive a voucher to keep the heating and lights on for around two weeks. The npower Fuel Bank scheme has already helped over 38,000 people, around 15,000 of which were children, with heating and lighting costs during their crisis ****.


David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust said:

“A crisis in winter for someone on a pre-payment meter who can’t afford the bare essentials isn’t just shocking, it’s dangerous. We’ve met a grandma who went without food and heating as she waited six weeks for a delayed pay cheque, a family using candles over the Christmas period because they can’t afford to put the lights on.

Without the superb support offered by  foodbanks and More Than Food schemes like the Fuel Bank people would be going cold, hungry, and falling seriously ill. We’re pleased at the recent price cap which will bring down bills for pre-pay customers but more can be done to ensure people aren’t going cold and hungry in the UK this winter.”


Peter MacLellan, Chief Executive of Durham Christian Partnership said:

“For those just about managing, delays or interruptions to their income brings on a food crisis very quickly. The loss of electricity and gas in winter due to their inability to prepay makes the crisis much worse. Cold housing, cold water and cold food call for more than cold comfort from government and energy companies. The Fuel Bank provides real and rapid relief and demonstrates what is possible with a change in approach.”


Matt Barlow, Chief Executive of Christians Against Poverty said:

“We know so many families who at crisis point have done without food and heating so we warmly welcome the roll-out of the Fuel Bank scheme. This will give people essential breathing space to find long-term help for the problems they face.”


Maria Amos, who was helped by the scheme running at Wirral Foodbank last Christmas, said,

 “I had no money at all and couldn’t afford to put the gas on. I moved the bed into the living room, like a bedsit. I couldn’t afford to heat the whole house. The foodbank helped me with a food parcel and a fuel voucher, and I was so grateful for the help they gave me.”



Notes to editors


The Trussell Trust:

  • Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy or bereavement to welfare problems or receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. The Trussell Trust’s network of over 420 foodbanks provides three days’ emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK.
  • From April 2015 to March 2016, Trussell Trust foodbanks provided 1,109,309 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. Of those helped, 415,866 were for children.
  • Everyone who comes to a Trussell Trust foodbank is referred by a frontline professional agency like Citizens Advice, housing associations and children’s centres.
  • Trussell Trust foodbanks do much more than food: they provide a listening ear and help resolve the underlying cause of the crisis either through signposting onto relevant local charities or providing on-site immediate support, such as holiday clubs or budgeting and cookery courses.
  • Find out more at


Durham Christian Partnership

  • Durham Christian Partnership operates foodbank centres across County Durham, providing food, debt, housing, benefits, job-search, energy and wellbeing support and advice either directly or in partnership. It provides additional support projects for vulnerable groups and seeks to fill gaps in support either by working in partnership or creating new services.
  • For more information visit: or call: 0191 303 8623


Explanatory notes

*The Trussell Trust matched the total number of foodbank vouchers redeemed against the total number of pre-payment customers identified by foodbank referral partners at foodbank centres operating Fuel Banks between April and October 2016.

***Following the Ofgem investigation into npower’s system issues, npower was required to pay £26m in compensation and charitable redress. As part of this, it was agreed that npower would provide funding for a range of charitable projects to benefit domestic energy consumers at risk from the impacts of unplanned life events. One such project is funding the Trussell Trust expansion of the Fuel Bank to 16 more areas and delivering c.50,000 vouchers to Foodbank clients, which will help circa 115,000 people, (based on an average of 2.30 people helped per voucher.) These 18 Fuel Banks are part of the Phase 3 rollout and the source of funding differs from phases one and two, which has supported 14 foodbanks. (

**** This is a measure of volume rather than unique users. The Fuel Bank scheme supports customers of any energy company and is not limited to people whose supplier is npower.