Wandsworth charity stares down cold homes crisis by helping low-income families battle fuel poverty

Low-income Wandsworth families struggling to heat their homes are being thrown a charity lifeline.

Independent fuel charity Fuelbanks and Families is tackling the cold homes crisis head-on by offering those in fuel poverty with immediate financial assistance in the form of a £49 voucher.

CEO Jan Stimpson said that the staff will help anyone sent to them through a crisis agency, such as Wandsworth Foodbank, as long as they have children 18 and under and have a pre-paid meter.

She said: “My dream would be that we’re not needed anymore anywhere, and that the country starts taking care of people with benefits and suspensions, or people earn more.

“I would be more than happy if we were put out of business, but at the moment people are hungry and they’re cold and they’re struggling and therefore we’re doing it.”

Wandsworth Foodbank trustee, Sarah Chapman, said many of the families they help were being forced to choose between food and fuel.

While they are separate entities the fuelbank operates with the foodbank in order to prevent Wandsworth families from having to choose between feeding their children and keeping them warm.

“What alerted me was the food bank were packing food for families with children 18 and under to take home that did not need cooking because they couldn’t afford to cook it,” explained Ms Stimpson.

“It broke my heart that in this day and age someone can’t cook for their children and have a self-imposed cut off because there isn’t enough money.”

Ms Stimpson said the charity has no affiliations with energy companies, enabling them to help those in need regardless of their service provider.

All contributions made to the charity go directly to the families and help is available to households with one or two parents.

A mum-of-four who didn’t wish to be named was introduced to the charity through Wandsworth Foodbank when she was going through an extremely hard time.

When the mum signed up she filled out a form listing her children’s birthdays.

A week later her daughter turned 12 and the fuelbank gave her a cake, so the family could celebrate together.

“It has just changed everything for me. I would have had no gas or electric and my daughter wouldn’t have had a birthday cake,” she revealed.

The charity also helped her mum buy winter coats for two of her children.

According to Turn2us research half of the capital’s employed low-income households are struggling to finance their energy needs, with 33% of those struggling having done so for more than a year.

The study also revealed 55% of those affected felt they would need to cut back on heating or not use it at all during the cold months, while another 50% said they would have to cut back on food.

Despite the hardship or choosing between heating and eating, the fuelbank has had some great success stories.

“One of the volunteers is a mum who came to us four months ago, who had 49p left on the meter to wash her two sons before school, Ms Stimpson explained.

“The meter had taken the 49p as debt or penalty of debt, and she couldn’t wash them so she came to us, got some help, got £49 and got a couple of little small bits and now she’s one of our main volunteers.”

The group has also paid for job training and security cards for other families to help them back into work.

“They’ve gone and got work and it’s lifted them into a completely different place,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s a single family we’ve helped that haven’t wanted to contribute in some way, so I think there’s a real generosity around it.”

The fuelbank is small but it is rapidly expanding and will be adding volunteer councilors for those in need of extra emotional support.

For more information on Fuel Banks and Families, or to make a donation, visit

Image courtesy of Images_of_Money, with thanks

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