Rishi Sunak announces energy bill discounts of £400 for UK
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Energy companies that need to be doing more to help some of the most vulnerable Britons during a crippling cost of living crisis have been exposed. With energy costs at staggeringly high levels due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, and supply cuts to Europe, providers are raking in profits while customers dig deep into their pockets. To soften the blow, the Government announced that every household would be offered a £400 winter discount, administered by energy companies.
While households on direct debit payment plans get the cash automically sent into their bank accounts, those on prepayment meters need to redeem vouchers at local top-up points to add credit to theirs.
However, a shocking amount of vouchers have gone unclaimed or have been lost. According to Government figures, while some firms are supporting households as best they can to make sure customers claim their discounts, others could be doing much more.
Households with E.Gas and Electricity had the highest voucher redemption rates under the Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS), at 85 percent, with Bulb coming in third at 79 percent.
Meanwhile, Good Energy, Utilita and Scottish Power have been shown to have the lowest redemption rates. The Government is calling on these firms, and others, to ensure their customers with prepayment meters know exactly how to redeem their vouchers so that they can get their hands on the state’s promised cash.
Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The public have a right to know which suppliers are leading the charge with getting this help to them, and that’s why I’m holding energy companies to account to make sure they are doing everything they can to support their customers at this time.
“We’re ramping up efforts so consumers know exactly what they need to do to redeem these vouchers, but we need suppliers to do much more and I want to see these numbers rise.”
While some households have still not got their hands on the discount, Government figures have revealed that £5.7billion of state support has now been provided to 99 percent of households across the UK via the EBSS, provided in monthly installments that began in October and will continue until March.
However, just 71 percent of vouchers have now been redeemed since the the scheme launched, up from 65 percent previously. However, ministers are keen to see this increase as 99 percent of vouchers have been issued.
Energy and Climate Minister Graham Stuart said: “Government support has directly cut billions from household bills over the last few months, but we also want everyone to get the extra £400 help as well. With the return of freezing conditions, it’s more important than ever that those with prepayment meters look out for and redeem their vouchers as soon as possible.
“I want energy suppliers to do more to alert people to this help and make sure that everyone eligible is prompted to cash the vouchers in – particularly those who are struggling most. Everyone can help though. If you know someone with a prepayment meter, ask them if they’ve got their vouchers and prompt them to use them.”
Suppliers are set to inform customers where to redeem vouchers, which will be at a Post Office branch or a PayPoint shop. The Government is urging them to make several attempts to contact customers who have not redeemed their vouchers.
In December, Express.co.uk reported that an estimated 1.3 million vouchers for homes with prepayment meters have either been lost, delayed or unclaimed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people missing out on the Government’s vital discounts.
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Sharleen Holiday, a 71-year-old, from Middlesborough with severe mental health problems, told Express.co.uk that she didn’t get hold of a single voucher until January, despite being entitled to three rounds of discounts.
She said that it was getting to the point where ”we are having one meal every three days if we are lucky so we can keep the electricity on. Some days we go without anything just to put the gas on. We have no family support to get financial help.”
Ms Holiday added: ”It’s as though with us being on legacy benefits we don’t matter. My mental health has dramatically been affected by the worry and stress.”
According to a poll by YouGov for the Warm This Winter campaign, 64 percent of pre-payment meter customers are vulnerable, with 51 percent having health conditions or disabilities.
But the Government is boosting campaign activity to reach eligible customers with additional advertising rolling out from today across community radio, social media and national magazine titles.
Express.co.uk is contacting Good Energy, Utilita and Scottish Power for comment.
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