New UK Government data released today highlights 42% of vouchers for customers with older prepayment meters have yet to be redeemed for one of the UK Government flagship schemes to tackle the energy crisis. The Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) is intended to provide all households with £400 off their energy bills by the end of April. Despite households having three months to claim the support, fuel poverty charity National Energy Action says the statistics could be a worrying, early indication that those most in need could miss out.
Peter Smith, director of policy and advocacy at National Energy Action, comments:
“Households using older prepayment meters face significant challenges accessing this government support, despite being at acute risk. If they cannot afford to top up, they will lose access to energy entirely – self-disconnecting and trying to survive the stark consequences that go with no heat or power in the home. These latest statistics are therefore very worrying and while we hope that many households who have received these vouchers are still waiting to use them when the weather turns colder, it could be an early indication that those most in need could miss out on this vital support.”
National Energy Action says it warned during the consultation of the Energy Bill Support Scheme there was a significant risk that households on older prepayment meters might not redeem vouchers. Unlike Direct Debit or Standard Credit customers, prepayment meter customers rarely receive post from their energy supplier and more generally, these customers often have a remote relationship with their supplier. The charity says that it is aware of several cases of vouchers being sent out with the wrong name or incorrect personal details, meaning they can’t be redeemed or need to be re-issued. It also notes that one of the major top up venders is not taking part in the scheme, meaning some customers are having to travel long travel distances to access support. Peter Smith concludes:
“It would be a huge mistake to assume that the lack of vouchers being redeemed is due to a lack of need. Customers on older prepayment meters are more likely to be living on the lowest incomes and more likely to be in significant debt to their supplier. We and similar organisations are therefore trying to do all we can to raise awareness of the support available. We are urging people that are on older meters to proactively contact their supplier to make sure they have the right contact details and are able to access the vouchers. We are also talking to Government about what contingency could be made to ensure these customers get equivalent support if the redeem rate doesn’t improve before now and the end of the scheme.”
Yesterday, National Energy Action warned that changes to the Energy Price Guarantee means that the average bill of £3,000 from April will be a 40% increase from current record levels given that the Government will cease the support currently provided by the Energy Bill Support Scheme. The charity also warned that although there will be a welcome increase to welfare payments and further targeted support, there are likely to be big gaps in support, especially for low-income households not on means-tested benefits.
Notes to editors
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- National Energy Action (NEA) works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to live in a warm, safe home. For more information visit https://www.nea.org.uk/.
- The UK Government statistics noted in the release can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-bills-support-scheme-payments-made-by-electricity-suppliers-to-customers.
- NEA’s response to Financial Statement can be found here: https://www.nea.org.uk/news/fuel-poverty-charity-national-energy-action-financial-statement-response/