One in four people on prepayment meters are missing out on energy bill vouchers they are entitled to receive, according to new figures.
A record number of people made use of £66 energy support vouchers in January, but a quarter of households did not redeem the monetary help they are entitled to through the government scheme.
Those on prepayment meters used 1.7 million vouchers in January – more than in previous months, with three-quarters of all vouchers now redeemed, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.
But many are still missing out on vital support.
If you are on a prepayment meter, have you checked you are accessing all available support?
Can I get the government energy bills discount if I'm on a prepayment meter?
Households in Great Britain were promised £400 in payments this winter to help them with energy bills.
For most households, this amount was simply deducted from their direct debits. However, many customers with prepayment meters have to redeem monthly £66 vouchers.
How do I claim my prepayment meter support?
You will either be given an automatic top-up - in which case you should top-up your prepayment as usual - or be given vouchers.
If you get vouchers, you will need to use them at a top-up point, such as a Post Office branch or a PayPoint shop. Your energy supplier should tell you where you can use your vouchers.
You may need photo ID to claim them, so be sure to take a driving licence or passport with you to the top-up point.
Vouchers expire 90 days after being issued.
If you are on a traditional prepayment meter and have not received your vouchers, or are unsure how to redeem them, you should get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible for more information and to make sure they have the correct contact details.
Why aren't people claiming the vouchers?
After low take-up in the earlier months of the scheme, Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps pushed suppliers to do more to help vulnerable customers access support.
But people are still missing out.
Data on Monday showed that the fewest households making use of the support are in London, where over a third of vouchers remain unclaimed.
Edinburgh, Brighton and Glasgow are also seeing low redemption rates.
PayPoint, who process the vouchers, revealed that around one in five people did not redeem the £66 energy support voucher they were sent in November.
Of the hundreds of thousands of vouchers sent out, only about 81% had been redeemed on before they expired – 90 days after they were issued.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, has said the government and energy suppliers must "quickly improve the scheme to ensure that all customers on prepayment meters – who are more likely to be vulnerable and on lower incomes – are able to access this vital support without further delay".
“The government should also set out a clear process for the reissuing of any expired or lost vouchers to ensure this works well for customers," she said.
Can I be forced onto a prepayment meter?
An estimated 3.2 million people across Britain ran out of credit on their prepayment meter in 2022, the equivalent of one every 10 seconds, because they could not afford to top it up, Citizens Advice have said.
A Times investigation revealed how customers – including disabled and mentally ill people – have been forced by British Gas on to the pay-as-you-go meters, or face having their gas switched off.
Ofgem ordered all domestic energy companies to suspend the system of forcibly installing prepayment meters after British Gas came under fire for its practices.
What does the government say?
Mr Shapps called on energy companies to "redouble their efforts" to ensure support reaches vulnerable households.
The said: “The help we’ve put in place means we are covering around half of most households’ energy bill this winter – this is an unprecedented level of support.
“With January temperatures having dropped to as low as -10 degrees in some parts of the country, I am pleased to announce today a record numbers of households taking up the government support.
“But many households are yet to redeem the vouchers they are entitled to and I want energy companies to redouble their efforts to get the support to those who need it.”
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