The energy boost 1.4 million households have not claimed this winter

Prepaid meter customers are eligible for six payments of £66 towards their energy bills. (Getty Images)

Experts have raised concerns that vulnerable people are missing out on vital costs of living after it was found that more than a third of energy bill vouchers for people using prepaid meters were not redeemed.

Data released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this week revealed that 1.4 million Energy Subsidy Scheme vouchers have not been redeemed since October.

The vouchers are intended to provide support payments to the government energy bill of £400 for people using prepaid meters, and are payable in monthly instalments of £66.

People who use prepaid meters, which operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, are more likely to have lower incomes and suffer from fuel poverty. If the family ran out of credit, they were separated and left without heat or electricity.

Last month the government admitted there was a “hurdle” in getting a vital energy discount of £400 for households using prepaid meters.

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In a letter to BEIS Secretary Grant Shapps on Tuesday, National Energy Action, Who?

“As you know, customers who use traditional prepaid meters are more vulnerable and those with lower incomes,” they said.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Business Secretary Grant Shapps arrives in Downing Street ahead of a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on December 13, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Grant Shapps, secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), has come under pressure from campaigners to ensure prepaid receipts reach customers. (Getty Images)

“They are also a minority of customers who need to take action in order to claim the £400 government energy bill rebate, which is distributed to traditional prepaid customers by energy companies in the form of vouchers that they will need to redeem at a top-up point.”

They added: “We understand that this is a new and complex scheme that was implemented quickly during a challenging time.

Watch: Cost of living, Brits turn to ‘warm banks’

“However, we believe it is your responsibility, along with the government, to do everything you can to ensure that this vital support reaches people as soon as possible.”

In an interview with ITV’sAnd the Shapps acknowledged there was a problem and said the companies were not “built” to deal with the scheme.

“What worries me is the gap between the vouchers being sent and the people who find the voucher,” he said.

“There is no one way to do this because energy providers send it in different ways, sometimes by text, sometimes by email, sometimes through the door.”

The government energy price guarantee expires at its current level in April 2023 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

The government energy price guarantee expires at its current level in April 2023 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

The cost of living in the UK continues to rise (Yahoo News UK / Flourish)

The cost of living in the UK continues to rise (Yahoo News UK / Flourish)

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He added: “Some energy companies have now set up sort of teams of people in some cases to actually go and knock on doors where they see no recoveries have been made, and others have put in additional customer services.

“But one of the things that really worried me when I came to your program earlier is that some of the power providers weren’t picking up the phone when they were called, to answer these questions.”

It comes as the cost of living crisis continues to deepen, with the average energy bill set to reach £3,000 a year in April and inflation of 10.7% in the 12 months to November 2022.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than 90% of the population has noted the rising cost of living.

Disposable income is expected to decline by 4.3% in 2023, with living standards expected to drop at record levels.

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