Energy bills: Adam Scorer calls for ‘targeted financial support’
Moer than half a million households are missing out on hundreds of pounds’ worth of help with energy bills. An estimated 1.3 million vouchers for homes with prepayment meters are either lost, delayed or unclaimed. While the Government promised to give a £400 discount to every household to help them cover part of their bills as energy costs rise, Britons up and down the country are still finding it incredibly difficult to cope with the astronomical prices as 760,000 have not had their payments.
And while some households get the discount automatically, those on pre-payment meters have to redeem vouchers at their local top-up point. But over a million of those have reportedly gone to waste, depriving households of a much-needed discount at a time of record-high energy bills.
Charities and MPs have repeatedly warned the Government that people on prepayment meters are not getting enough support. But now, it has been revealed that households have missed out on an estimated £80million of Government help since the scheme launched two months ago, according to a report by the Guardian.
According to Government data published last month, 2.1 million vouchers were supposed to be delivered to UK households. But separate data from Paypoint, a top-up firm, showed that up to 25 percent of the expected vouchers for the first few months of the scheme have not been redeemed or claimed.
The company’s data revealed that 75 percent of vouchers had not been redeemed for October, and with November redemptions only amounting to 63 percent. Together with the Government’s data, it suggests 500,000 households that were eligible for a Government discount in October did not receive any help, the Guardian’s analysis revealed.
Half a million Britons have missed out on crucial energy bill support
Many low-income households use prepayment meters
This got even worse in November, with 760,000 going without extra support last month. Altogether, it means 1.3 million vouchers worth £84million have gone to waste so far.
Matt Copeland, the head of policy and public affairs at the charity National Energy Action (NEA), said that the Government was warned in advanced that the voucher scheme was always going to create problems, noting that vulnerable households were at risk of missing out on the discount.
He said: “Unfortunately we saw this coming. We knew from past experience that this would happen. Not enough has been done to ensure we have a better outcome.”
For people living in standard homes who pay for their energy via direct debit, the cash has already arrived in their accounts twice. But despite prepayment meter customers are also eligible for the discount, campaigners said prepayment meters find it challenging to use vouchers to deliver their help.
Around 4.5 million Britons rely on energy prepayment meters, many of them on low incomes. Many are still waiting for the top-up voucher to arrive from their energy provider, while others have simply got lost or have not been claimed. For those who take a card or key to their local top-up point to put credit on their prepayment meter, BEIS explains they need to take a few simple steps to access the money.
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Prepayment meter customers need to make sure that their energy suppliers have up-to-date contact details so they can send their vouchers to the right place. They also need to keep watch for their energy vouchers, which are sent the first week of the month until March via SMS text, email or post.
But the situation is slowly improving. Steve O’Neill, the corporate affairs and marketing director, of the top-up company PayPoint, said: “We’re still seeing a higher rate of redemptions on November vouchers than those issued in October, despite all vouchers having a three-month validity period.
“It is advisable that people redeem their oldest vouchers first, in order to lessen the risk of them expiring compared to newer vouchers. If anyone eligible hasn’t yet received their voucher, they should contact their energy supplier as soon as possible.”
Labour’s shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, said: “The government has been warned time and time again that too many households on prepayment meters are not getting the energy bills support they deserve. Yet successive prime ministers have failed to tackle this issue. With the cost of living spiralling, the government must end once and for all the unfair penalty premium on prepayment meter users, as Labour has repeatedly called for.”
This also comes ahead of another increase to household bills from April, after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the energy price cap will go from £2,500 to £3,000.
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Charities have called for more Government support
Hunt announced that the energy price cap will reach £3,000 in April
Adam Scorer, chief executive at National Energy Action (NEA), said: “Changes to the Energy Price Guarantee mean that the breathing space for households struggling with energy costs will now be shorter lived and less helpful.
“An average bill of £3,000 from spring is an increase of 40 percent from current record levels given that the Government has ceased the support currently provided by the Energy Bill Support Scheme, yet energy bills are up by a staggering 130%. Sadly, this means there is now no end in sight to the energy crisis for struggling households. For most, it looks as if it will get even harder.
“Boosting welfare payments and the targeted support that has been announced for energy bills will help some of the poorest households and at-risk groups, that’s important, but there are big gaps in these measures especially for low-income households not on means-tested benefits. The reductions in universal support will make these gaps even more challenging.”
A spokesperson for the business department said: “All energy bills support scheme vouchers for October and November should have been dispatched by suppliers. If customers have not received them, or are having difficulties in redeeming them, they should contact their supplier.
“Suppliers must ensure vouchers reach customers by the 11th working day of the month, and they’re working with Post Office and PayPoint to mitigate postal strikes. Customers can also speak to their supplier if they need a voucher to be reissued.”
If you have failed to redeem your top-up voucher or have been struggling to cope with rising bills and would like to share your story with Express.co.uk, please get in touch at [email protected]