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Hard-up prepayment meter customers hit by ‘blockage’ delays to energy bill discount vouchers

HARD-UP households are missing out on a vital discount on their energy bills this winter.

The Government has admitted to a “blockage” getting vouchers out to prepayment meter customers as part of a cost of living payment worth hundreds of pounds.

The Government says it will do “whatever is necessary” to ensure people get the support on their energy bills

The discount coupons are part of the £400 allocated to each household in Britain to help with soaring energy bills.

The rebate is split into six payments with the first and second worth £66 each paid in October and November.

£67 discount will then be provided every month between December and March 2023.

But, for a large number of customers on prepayment meters, their first voucher has still not arrived.

The Government says it will do “whatever is necessary” to ensure people get the support on energy bills that they are entitled to.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said there was a “blockage” in getting vouchers out to some of the millions of customers with prepayment meters across Britain.

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said: “The most important thing, as I say, is that the Government is going to be gripping this issue and doing whatever is necessary to make sure that we unblock the blockage that there is in terms of getting those vouchers out.”

Most households will have the £66 taken off their bills automatically when they pay by direct debit.

Just over four million households are on prepayment meters.

While smart prepayment meter customers should get it automatically too, anyone with a traditional prepayment meter must redeem vouchers.

These vouchers are being sent out each month by suppliers in the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post.

Customers will then need to redeem these at their usual top-up point.

Mr Stride said a “huge number” of people have been in touch to say they are struggling to get the vouchers.

He added: “Firstly … the Government is very alive to the issue, and will be working with the energy companies, and are as we speak, to resolve those particular issues.”

We asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy just how many households have been affected.

Recent data also shows that far fewer than expected have not redeemed the vouchers yet.

And households on these meters are often more vulnerable than those that pay by direct debit,

Last week, meter top-up processor PayPoint told the BBC that it expected to process 800,000 vouchers in October, worth a total of £52.8million.

But just £25.8million of these vouchers had been redeemed by the end of the month.

National charity Citizens Advice says the Government should be prioritising getting the delayed vouchers out to people.

Gillian Cooper, head of energy policy at Citizens Advice, said: “Before winter has even hit, we’re seeing far too many people who can’t afford to top up their prepayment meter.

“That means going without access to the very basics like a hot meal.

“It’s so important that everyone gets the support they’re entitled to.

“The government must make it a priority to fix any issues with people getting their vouchers.”

Yesterday, Martin Lewis explained the latest predictions for energy bills from next year.

The Money Saving Expert told his followers on Twitter that a typical yearly bill will cost £3,702 from April 2023.

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