Wallasey MP Angela Eagle, Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood, and Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley have raised concerns that households with prepayment meters aren’t benefiting fully from the Government’s Energy Bill Support Scheme.
In Wirral, in October and November 2022, more than 32% of vouchers – worth a total of £1.17million – were not redeemed.
The £400 energy discounts are part of the government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme to help UK households with their energy bills this winter. The support is paid in instalments: £66 in October and November, and then £67 every month until March.
The £66 vouchers are valid for 90 days but have now expired – though customers can get them re-issued by contacting their energy supplier. Many are thought to be missing out due to social and economic vulnerability, including language barriers, and because suppliers do not have up-to-date contact details.
Wallasey MP Angela Eagle raised concerns over the ‘poverty premium’ as almost £800,000 in energy bill support was unclaimed by households on prepayment meters across Wirral
Angela Eagle said, “I am concerned that households which use prepayment meters in Wirral are missing out on vital support with their energy bills this winter. Yet again, support is not reaching those who need it most, as many families do not redeem all their entitled vouchers.
“The Government must act to ensure that families on prepayment meters are not being met with barriers when claiming support they are entitled to.
“As bills continue to soar in this cost-of-living crisis, I would encourage everyone with a prepayment meter to redeem their Energy Bill Support Scheme vouchers in full, and apply to their supplier for vouchers they may not have missed to save as much money as possible on their bills.”
Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is a matter of concern that, last October and November in Wirral, more than 30% of vouchers which are designed to help the most vulnerable households with their gas and electricity bills were not claimed. It may be that some have been lost, delayed or unclaimed.
“These vouchers were worth more than £1.1million which is an extraordinary sum of money.
“Many people are struggling with bills at the moment, and this support is vital.
“I would urge people who have elderly or vulnerable family members or friends to check and make sure that they have received the vouchers that they are entitled to and have redeemed them.
“People who struggle to read and write might also find it difficult to redeem vouchers, so I would call on family members and friends to help them out too.
“If people do not think that they have received their vouchers, I would urge them to contact their energy supplier.
“If people require support, they can contact an organisation like Citizens Advice who will be able to help. Of course, people who live in Wirral West can also contact my office for help with this.”
Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead, said, “I am concerned that many discount vouchers for low-income households with pre-payment energy meters are not being redeemed.
“I have written to the Energy Secretary asking why energy suppliers cannot directly credit the accounts of consumers instead.”
Margaret Greenwood MP has also questioned the government over its Warm Homes Discount Scheme which aims to help some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society by giving them a £150 discount on their electricity bills.
This is the first winter of the new eligibility criteria for the scheme, and concerns have been raised that many people who were previously eligible for support are no longer eligible because of the changes.
The Wirral West MP is keen to understand the impact that that is having on her constituents, and she has asked the government for figures on the number of people in Wirral West who are eligible for the scheme both this year and last year.
She has also asked whether the government will extend the deadline to apply for the scheme beyond the current 28 February deadline.
Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is also a matter of real concern that many people who were eligible for last year’s Warm Homes Discount Scheme are not eligible this year due to changes that the government has brought in.
“I am taking steps to find out how many people in Wirral West are affected by this, and I have asked whether the government will extend the deadline to apply for the scheme beyond 28 February.
“It is vital that people get the support they need with their energy bills, and every effort must be made by the government to ensure that everyone who is eligible takes up the support on offer.”
Even if vouchers have expired, people can ask for them to be reissued, but all vouchers must be redeemed by 30 June 2023.
Prepayment meter customers should have received either an email, text, or letter from their energy supplier with details on how to redeem vouchers. Whilst each voucher expires after 90 days, households can contact their electricity supplier to request a replacement voucher if one is missing or expired, and are entitled to redeem vouchers going back to October.
Citizens Advice Wirral can be contacted by telephone on 0808 278 7848 or you can visit their website for further assistance: www.citizensadvicewirral.org.uk