A SIMPLE project that tops up people’s gas and electric meters in a moment of crisis may have saved lives.

The Help2Heat scheme is run out of the Sharon Full Gospel Church in Pontypool. It gives people who have no gas or electricity a £30 top up for their prepayment meter – but, according to the organisers, it does so much more.

“We had one chap say that we stopped him from killing himself,” said minister Mathew Barlett. “We had a single dad who sent us a nice letter, which I’m going to frame. His partner had passed away, he was bringing up his little girl on his own, working all hours, and couldn’t afford to put the electric on.

“People come to us in a real moment of crisis. Although it seems like a small thing, £30 to put gas and electric on for a week, for the people who came for help, it bought them a bit of time and they accessed other services.”

While it is Help2Heat that brings people through the door in that crisis moment, the church-based Hope for the Community organisation can then guide people to other projects it runs as well as signpost people to benefits that might be available.

Last year, the scheme helped 106 families in Pontypool. Now it has been awarded £15,000 over three years from the Our Communities Together fund – a partnership between Argus and Free Press publisher Newsquest and Community Foundation Wales – to keep it going.

“It will make an enormous difference,” said Mr Barlett. “That’s another 160 families helped each winter in a time of crisis.”

He said the scheme was kept as simple as possible to make it accessible and that a wide range of people were helped last winter.

“It was families with children - every demographic you can think of came to us needing help,” he said. “We helped 106 families last winter in that simple way.”

Lisa White, community engagement officer, on the project, said some people were reluctant to ask for help and it wasn’t just those on benefits who needed it.

“The families that are working sometimes felt they shouldn’t be using us and it was trying to get over to them it’s not a shameful trying,” she said. “They’d say ‘I don’t want to take it off someone who needs it’, and I’d say ‘Well, you need it’.

South Wales Argus: Our Communities Together - a cost of living crisis appealOur Communities Together - a cost of living crisis appeal (Image: Archive)

And while the project is run through the church, there is no expectation of faith or worship for those who use it.

Newsquest and Community Foundation Wales launched Our Communities Together as a cost-of-living crisis appeal earlier this year, asking people, businesses, and organisations to donate to a fund that would be used to support community groups to help those in need.

More than £1 million of grants have now been given out that will make a difference over the coming three years. But the crisis is not going away and the appeal has been relaunched.

Individuals can make donations online and businesses and organisations who want to be involved should email katy@communityfoundationwales.org.uk.