Vulnerable people missing out on cost of living help as they're 'scared to open post'

Watch: Vulnerable people missing out on cost of living help because they're 'scared to open their post'

Vulnerable energy customers on prepayment meters are missing out on vital energy bill support because they're "scared to open their post" amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis, an expert has warned.

Households on prepayment meters pay for their energy on a pay-as-you-go basis, and should have been contacted by their supplier before 1 October about receiving the £400 energy rebate.

The rebate should have been automatically added to their accounts, or issued in the form of a voucher.

However, it is estimated £25m of government help for people on prepayment meters was not claimed last month.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday morning, Saleem Shafi from Leeds Money Buddy said the situation facing people on prepayment meters was "desperate".

Read more: 'Plunged into darkness': The worrying rise in families on pay-as-you-go energy meters

"They are really struggling, so much that they're not even wanting to open the post because they're scared about what letters they're going to be getting," said Shafi.

"So we are going to have, sadly, groups of people who are really, really struggling."

He also warned that some people were unable to contact their energy providers about receiving their rebate as they cannot afford to buy phone credit.

"They don't have any money to heat or eat at the moment," said Shafi.

"So, to top up their phones and to use their phones to contact providers is a real issue."

Households on prepayment meters are more likely to be struggling with soaring energy costs. (Getty Images)

National Energy Action chief executive Adam Scorer has also expressed concern that vulnerable prepayment customers are missing out on energy bill support.

"They may not know that the scheme exists, be reluctant to open letters from suppliers, miss the email or can't print the voucher off," he said.

"Having the support in place, is of course, vital. Making sure people can and do access it is just as important."

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that more than seven in 10 prepayment meter customers are finding it difficult to afford their bills compared to 40% of standard meter customers.

Read more: People donate £400 energy support cheques to food bank - 'It's incredible'

It comes as the cost-of-living crisis continues to deepen across the UK, with inflation hitting a 40-year high of 10.1% and interest rates set to rise again this week.

The government is coming under increasing pressure to provide extra support for households on the lowest incomes, with charities urging the government to stick to their pledge to uprate benefits with inflation.

However, the government has refused to commit to doing so – with levelling up secretary Michael Gove on Sunday failing three times to answer whether the uprating will go ahead in the budget on 17 November.

"We're going to have some very, very tough decisions to make in the autumn statement," he said.

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