Post Office is urging the approximately 20,000 households (around 4%) who have not yet redeemed their £600 energy vouchers to do so.
More than 95% of vouchers have now been redeemed at post offices to date and there is only a two-week window left for households that were part of the initial 500,000 voucher roll out to redeem their voucher before it expires on March 31st.
Vouchers started landing on people’s doormats from Monday 16 January and were issued on behalf of the UK Government to all households in Northern Ireland where energy bills are not paid via direct debit.
The initial roll out of vouchers ran from 16 January to 7 February with the last tranche of these vouchers landing on doormats by Saturday 11 February. Vouchers issued during this period which have not been redeemed are at risk of expiring on March 31st.
Any customers who have had a voucher reissued will have longer to redeem, as these vouchers last for three months from their new issue date.
The Post Office worked with electricity suppliers in organising the mail-out of the vouchers which took place in tranches. The Post Office announced that all 500,000 vouchers were dispatched by early February – ahead of schedule and within three weeks of the start date.
The success of the scheme highlights the importance of post offices within local communities.
It has also showcased how the Post Office has the technology and infrastructure to oversee a rollout of this scale and nature, distributing £300m in less than three months.
Cash deposits at Post Offices
The voucher redemption scheme has also seen a surge in the number of cash deposits over the counter at Post Office’s 500 branches across Northern Ireland.
Between Monday 16 January and Sunday 12 March, customers deposited £347 million worth of cash into their personal bank account at the Post Office. This is an increase of £177 million (+104%) on the equivalent period last year (Monday 17 January 2022 – Sunday 13 March 2022) when £170 million was deposited over the counter.
Post Office’s agreement with 30 UK banks and building societies meant that people redeeming their £600 voucher were able to deposit all or some of the cash straight into their bank account whilst at their local Post Office. For many customers this has been beneficial as it has allowed them to avoid having to carry large sums of cash to deposit at a bank branch that could be several miles away or not open late hours and weekends.
Andrew Goddard, Head of Payments for the Post Office, said:
“The Northern Ireland rollout has reminded people just how important post offices are to local communities. None of this would have been possible without our postmasters who have been working hard to help people redeem their vouchers quickly.
"The success of the rollout also highlights why Post Office is uniquely placed to handle projects in the bill payment and cash disbursal space. Our enviable infrastructure and the resources we have had to hand have enabled half a million households to claim a much needed £600 to help deal with record energy costs in a short period of time. We’re urging anyone who has not yet redeemed their voucher to do so before the expiry date.”
Consumer and Energy Affordability Minister Amanda Solloway said:
“We worked at breakneck speed to deliver this support to the people of Northern Ireland, and it’s fantastic to see the majority of vouchers issued have now been redeemed. This means hundreds of thousands of households have received £600 to help with energy bills, but I urge anyone who has still not yet done so to redeem your voucher, so that no one misses out on this vital help.”
The Post Office is urging anyone who has not yet redeemed their voucher to ensure they bring the correct forms of identification with them and the voucher when visiting their local branch.
The voucher is made up of UK Government support through the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme payment and an additional £200 Alternative Fuel Payment. 500,000 households in Northern Ireland are eligible for the voucher. Of the 500 post offices in Northern Ireland, the vast majority are open on Saturdays and around 150 are open on Sundays.