The vulnerable lose a third of UK energy vouchers that are not redeemed

Ministers have been urged to intervene after it was found that more than a third of vouchers aimed at easing people’s energy bills on prepaid meters had not been redeemed.

Data released on Tuesday by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that 34% of coupons have not been redeemed since the scheme was launched in October.

The Energy Bills Support Scheme has been introduced to take the brunt of rising bills this winter. The Energy Price Guarantee directly lowers bills for people who are in debt while the voucher scheme is designed to help those who use prepaid meters.

However, there were still over 1.3 million unredeemed vouchers with many vouchers lost, delayed, or unclaimed. The Guardian revealed at the start of December that up to half a million of the UK’s most vulnerable households had been left without government assistance since October.

In all, just under 2.7 million vouchers were claimed out of the more than 4 million time-limited £66 vouchers sent to households with traditional pre-pay counters.

Martin Lewis, consumer champion, has joined Which? and Age UK, Citizens Advice and National Energy Action to write to Business Secretary Grant Shapps to express concern about the low recovery rate.

“It cannot be true that millions of pounds of government support go unclaimed while low income and vulnerable groups are at risk,” they wrote in an open letter published on Tuesday.

They called on the government to regularly publish recovery rates including the method of delivery; investigate the cause of low recovery rates; Increase awareness of the scheme and consider modifying it when issues are identified.

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

Earlier on Tuesday, Shapps accused some energy suppliers of not picking up customers.

“What worries me is that gap between the vouchers being sent in and the people finding the voucher,” he said on ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’.

Dara Vyas, deputy chief executive of the UK Energy Authority, said suppliers are doing everything they can to ensure vouchers reach customers and will make repeated attempts using the channels – such as text, email, phone or post – and contact details available to them.

Concerns about the vouchers came amid calls from MPs for a ban on compulsory installations of prepaid meters amid fears that the elderly and vulnerable are effectively cut off from heating and electricity supplies.

Prepaid counters are checked as thousands of orders are made allowing compulsory combinations.

On Monday, the government extended existing support to allow people living in care homes and in caravan parks to get £400 to help with their fuel bills. Around 900,000 households in England, Scotland and Wales without a direct connection to an energy supplier will be able to apply online for £400.

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