Evaluation of the Npower Fuel Bank™ (pilot phase)
Author: Helen Stockton, NEA
Published: April 2016
During 2014-15 NEA worked in partnership with npower, the Trussell Trust and individual food bank providers in the pilot areas of County Durham, Gloucester, Kingston and the Wirral to develop the npower Fuel Bank™ scheme. The npower Fuel Bank is an innovative and novel approach to supporting households in energy crisis and is targeted at food bank service-users that use a pre-payment meter (PPM) who are struggling with their energy costs and at immediate risk self-disconnection and/or rationing of energy. During the pilot phase NEA was commissioned by npower to undertake an evaluation of the Fuel Bank to assess the impact of the fuel bank on service-users and to assess the operational processes and administration of the scheme from the view of both food bank providers and those that used the service.
The Fuel Bank provides a fuel voucher to the value of £49 (equivalent to approx. two weeks’ dual fuel use) in three pilot areas and £30 (equivalent to approx. one week’s dual fuel use) in one pilot area (the Wirral). The evaluation identified three direct principal benefits to fuel voucher recipients: 1) enabling reconnection to energy supplies (in cases of self-disconnection); 2) helping to prevent self-disconnection where emergency credit is already being used; and 3) helping to reduce or pay down a proportion of energy debt, including preventing use of emergency credit. There were also several other indirect benefits to recipients, including helping to regain control over household budget and debts; providing relief to those experiencing stress and anxiety; and enabling families access to the basics that are often and rightly taken for granted by most.