More than £25 million in energy support vouchers for prepayment meter households have still not been claimed. This means that many of the over four million people who pay for their energy in this fashion will miss out on some or all of the Government’s scheme to knock £400 off people’s bills.

The Energy Bill Support Scheme began in October, and households should have received the first instalment of funds by the end of the month. However, according to data from an in-store payment company obtained by the BBC, only half of the expected value of vouchers had been redeemed.

Many people will have the £400 automatically deducted from their bills in six instalments over the winter, but those on prepayment meters must claim vouchers to begin receiving the discount. Conventional prepayment meters are topped up at a local newsagent or Post Office with a key or a card.

A government source urged customers to have any outstanding credit applied to their meters as soon as possible. The discount will be applied over a six-month period, with £66 deducted from bills in October and November and £67 deducted from bills each month between December and March 2023.

What is going on with support vouchers?

Traditional prepayment meter customers are provided with discount vouchers or Special Action Messages (SAMs) in the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post. Customers need to redeem these at their usual top-up point.

According to the PayPoint data, 500,000 households that should have received government assistance either did not receive or did not redeem their voucher in October, and 760,000 went without in November. Since the scheme’s inception, 1.3 million vouchers have gone unclaimed.

It’s difficult to ascertain why people have not yet claimed these vouchers, though many people have complained about delays in receiving the vouchers on money-saving websites. Fuel poverty charities are urging those who use the meters to check their mail to see if they skipped the delivery, as the vouchers are only valid for 90 days.

Customers may not know that the scheme exists, be reluctant to open letters from suppliers, miss the email or can’t print the voucher off. The mild weather may have also played a role, with customers waiting until it gets colder to redeem their tickets.

How do I apply for my discount?

You should receive vouchers in the mail if you use a traditional prepayment meter, top it up at a shop, and are with one of the major suppliers. They can then be redeemed at your local Post Office, PayZone, or PayPoint. Most suppliers should send the voucher by the 17th of each month, and it is only valid for 90 days. The vouchers will expire three months after they are issued, meaning October vouchers will be invalid from 3 January, while November’s expire on 5 February.

If you pay by another method, you may receive assistance in a variety of ways, depending on your supplier and payment method. There is no need to apply for the Energy Bill Support Scheme because it is available to all households.

Those on a fixed monthly direct debit with either EonNext, Shell, Octopus Energy, SOEnergy, or Bulb will have £66 or £67 deducted from their monthly bill. People who pay British Gas, Scottish Power, OvoSSE, and Utilita in the same way will have their money refunded to their bank account after making their monthly payment.

Monthly bills based on what you use. If you pay monthly based on usage, British Gas, Shell, Bulb, SOEnergy, or Utilita will deduct £66 or £67 from your bill. If you use EonNext, Octopus Energy, or OvoSSE, the money will be applied as credit, reducing your total bill.

The credit will be automatically added to anyone who has a smart prepayment meter. Most of the time, this will be to the power grid, but Shell is splitting it 50-50 between gas and electricity. The majority of suppliers do this during the first week of the month.

I didn’t receive my voucher. What should I do?

The Energy Saving Trust has said people should check if their energy supplier has the correct address for them, saying “If you aren’t sure if your supplier has your correct contact details, get in touch with them and check. This is important because otherwise they won’t be able to tell you how to access the discount.”

All energy bills support scheme vouchers for October and November should have been dispatched by suppliers. If customers have not received them, or are having difficulties in redeeming them, they should contact their supplier. It is advisable that people redeem their oldest vouchers first, in order to lessen the risk of them expiring compared to newer vouchers.

According to comparison website Uswitch, as the energy crisis worsens, an increasing number of people are being pushed into using prepayment gas and electricity meters. Customers may be placed on these meters by their suppliers if they are having difficulty keeping up with bills, as it allows them to control how much and how frequently they pay. Tariffs on prepayment meters, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive, making customers more vulnerable and at risk of being disconnected.

Claiming this support is critical to ensuring that everyone has access to basic utilities this winter. If you are having difficulty paying your bills, contact your supplier, as they are required to ensure that you only pay what is reasonable. This includes lowering your monthly payments.