British Gas engineers are now delivering food parcels to help struggling foodbanks
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The energy and home services provider is currently only attending emergency callouts and essential visits for vulnerable customers, in order to manage demand and follow social distancing guidelines.
It anticipates that many of its engineers and other employees will have a lighter workload as a result and can fit community work around their day jobs.
As part of a new partnership with the Trussell Trust, British Gas colleagues are being encouraged to volunteer at their local foodbanks, after the charity revealed it is struggling to get supplies to those who are in need.
In a change to how foodbanks usually work, and to prevent people from coming into close contact with others, parcels are now being delivered to the doorsteps of those who need them most.
The Trussell Trust, which manages more than 1,200 food banks across the UK, is also struggling to collect food donations and transport them back to local hubs.
Its normal network of 28,000 volunteers has been curtailed because many are aged over 70 and are now self-isolating, because they are deemed 'at risk' of getting coronavirus.
British Gas hopes its workforce of 6,000 engineers and others across the business will support the delivery of 50,000 food parcels a month, as well as donating food, collecting donations and putting the food parcels together.
More than 1,750 staff have volunteered their support in just 48 hours.
Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “As the coronavirus pandemic develops, we’re working closely with food banks to support them to continue providing vital emergency food to people who can’t afford the essentials in a safe way.
“Being able to deliver food bank parcels to people’s homes will really help us ensure everyone’s safety - but it’s a big change to the way food banks normally work.
“That’s why it’s so important to have the support of British Gas.
“Everyone should be able to afford their own food and we’ll be continuing our work to end the need for food banks, but right now more people than ever are likely to need a food bank’s help.
“This partnership will help us get donated food to food banks for packing, and then deliver those vital parcels to people who can’t afford food. We’re so grateful to British Gas for their support.”
British Gas has also been able to support its existing charity partner, Carers UK, after the charity has seen a 60 per cent increase in call demand in recent weeks.
Carers urgently need advice on care and social distancing, resources for remote caring and support with food and community services.
As a result, for the next 12 weeks, British Gas is helping Carers UK to keep its helpline and email service running throughout the week, so that it can provide vital support and advice.
Matthew Bateman, managing director of field operations at British Gas, said: “Our engineers, call centre and support teams are playing a crucial role in ensuring our customers’ homes are safe, warm and working, and I’m so proud of the amazing work they are doing.
“Many of our people are already helping their communities by volunteering at food banks, getting shopping for vulnerable customers and even using their skills to make face masks to give to NHS workers.
“There are still so many of our people that want to do more to help those in need; by working with the Trussell Trust we can help get food and other essentials to those who really need it.
“We are in a unique position to help with our nationwide reach and with the third largest fleet in the UK.”