Park home owner says he won't get energy discount payment
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With energy bills hitting double the amount they were last year on average, the Government stepped in to provide a £400 discount over the course of six months to every household. But Express.co.uk has heard horror stories from Britons on prepayment meters who have missed out on the first few rounds of Government cash, which has forced thousands of the most vulnerable Britons to live in damp homes and skip meals as they can’t keep up with the rising costs.
While most people will see the discount administered automatically every month, hundreds of thousands of Britons on prepayment meters need to redeem vouchers at their local top-up points, making matters more complicated.
Last week, 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.
Sharleen Holiday, a 41-year from Middlesborough with severe mental health problems, told Express.co.uk that she is yet to receive a single voucher that would let her claim a discount, despite being entitled to three rounds of discounts.
She said: “I have severe mental health problems and from October 13 2022 I’ve been phoning British Gas every week about my first lot of Government help energy prepayment vouchers.
“To date, I still haven’t received my first lot of vouchers, never mind my third lot. It’s getting to the point where I’m going for weeks without me or my partner eating just so we can keep the electricity, some days going without anything just to put the gas on.
“We have no family support to get financial help. 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 of me being able to afford to put the gas and electricity on each month. All British Gas even say and tell me is the vouchers are in the post and that they have to wait till they receive them from the Government.”
But Ms Holiday is far from the only one in this predicament. 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.
And almost a third of prepayment meter customers are reportedly living in cold damp homes. For those also classified as vulnerable, the situation is even bleaker, with 36 percent reportedly living in a cold damp home.
Another reader, who asked to remain anonymous, told Express.co.uk that he has had to live in a damp home due to a delay in receiving his discount vouchers.
He explained: “I am one of those individuals who despite contacting three energy suppliers to ascertain whether or not they are my supplier, two replied ‘Not me’, despite the gas card and electricity key having their details on and I have been using them for top-ups over the year that I have been in the rental property.
Luckily, the reader told Express.co.uk they finally received the voucher just this week. But others are still left waiting as temperatures start to plummet.
Jessica Ruggles, a pensioner who lives alone, is also still waiting to receive a voucher to claim the energy discount. She said: “I have not yet received any vouchers from British Gas in December.
“I have been on to them twice and they tell me the vouchers are issued and held up in the postal strike. I am a pensioner, living alone, totally dependent on electricity for everything.”
This comes as temperatures are set to plunge in brutal cold snap, meaning households will likely need to use up even more energy and could go freezing and hungry. Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Although PPMs are included in the Government’s £400 energy bill discount scheme, many are missing out on this much-needed help because of problems with the vouchers that are being issued for those on older meters.”
In fact, we estimate that at least 150,000 older households relying on an old PPM will miss out on the £400 and worryingly, recent Government figures suggest over 40 percent of vouchers sent to PPM households are yet to be redeemed.
“We want to see a promotional campaign to encourage those people with old PPMs to redeem their vouchers, with repeat vouchers dispatched to homes yet to redeem and extensions given to expiry dates. The Government and Ofgem must also consider a moratorium on forced PPM installations until energy prices stabilise to avoid older people self-disconnecting this winter.”
A British Gas spokesperson said: “Our teams are working hard to deliver this Government scheme to millions of customers. All October and November vouchers have been issued. If for any reason a customer hasn’t received it, our advice is to get in touch with us and we’ll resolve it as quickly as possible.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Government for comment.
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