The Big Issue Foundation has partnered with Fuel Bank Foundation to support Big Issue vendors who are struggling to pay they fuel bills. No one should have to live in fuel crisis.
The impact of COVID-19 on Big Issue vendors has highlighted an issue faced by many households across the UK. Big Issue vendors have been unable to earn a living for several months of the past year. Restrictions have also meant more time than ever is being spent at home. Therefore they are using more energy on heating and lighting, placing extra pressure on already stretched finances.
Over the past year, at least one vendor has contacted us every week to discuss support for paying their utility bills. Fuel Bank directly help support this need by providing one-off payments to help support those who are struggling to pay for gas or electricity.
COVID-19 has highlighted the reality for many of running out of money for gas and electricity. For some, this is something that has happened in the past, and for many years, and was a common event when growing up. But for an alarming number, COVID-19 has brought this about for the very first time, with many finding themselves without the support networks or tried and tested ways to get through a gap in household finances where you are forced to literally live without energy.
The impacts of waking up one day cold, unable to cook a hot meal nor keep food chilled, not able to have a warm shower or wash clothes, no access to wi-fi or TV for school learning, and unable to connect with family or society is significant and should not be understated.
Like-for-like, Fuel Bank need has increased by approximately 23% since the outbreak of the pandemic. However, this masks some local spikes in need that we have seen, where demand has increased by more than 300%.
Simon Chilcott, our Head of Service Development, said:
Partnering with the Fuel Bank came at the right time with so many Big issue vendors struggling financially during the pandemic, The Big Issue frontline staff are trained to assess the need and refer directly into the Fuel Bank. After referral confirmation a vendor will receive a £49 voucher that can be redeemed to top up their electric/gas key card, this has meant we have time to support the vendor with direct budgeting advise and information from the Fuel bank, giving them some breathing space. For our vendors this has made the difference between eating and whether to have the lights on or not.
Fuel Bank makes a significant difference to those receiving help and ensures they have access to energy for things like cooking, heating and lighting. We are excited to partner with Fuel Bank to help ease the financial burden felt by Big Issue vendors whilst they are unable to sell the magazine.