Full details on the £600 energy bill support payment for Northern Ireland
Updated: Jan 1
The UK government this week set out how around 500,000 households in Northern Ireland will receive £600 support with their energy bills, with new vouchers starting to be issued from mid-January.
Energy and Climate Minister Graham Stuart confined on Friday (December 30th) that for customers on standard credit schemes without direct debits set up, and those on prepayment (keypad) meters, this will take the form of vouchers, with the most vulnerable customers getting priority access.
Standard credit customers with no direct debit arrangement and prepayment keypad customers will receive the voucher from their supplier which they can redeem at a Post Office, either by depositing it in a bank or credit union, or, where needed, as cash.
Customers with a direct debit arrangement with their energy supplier will receive the payment directly to their bank account and will not be provided with vouchers.
Vouchers will start to be issued from mid-January, with every eligible customer receiving them in time to feel the benefit this winter.
Households in Northern Ireland will receive a single non-repayable payment totalling £600 to help with their energy bills, regardless of how they heat their home.
The payment is made up of the Energy Bills Support Scheme (£400) and the Alternative Fuel Payment (£200), and will be provided by the UK government through electricity suppliers.
The payment is automatic. If you get a message asking for your bank details, this could be a scam. You can report messages you think are suspicious.
All households with a domestic meter (T01) and electricity contract are eligible for the payment.
Households without a domestic meter or with a non-domestic electricity contract
Households without a domestic meter or with a non-domestic electricity contract will also receive a £600 payment this winter. This is made up of £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding and £200 Alternative Fuel Payment.
There will be a separate process for getting this payment. Further details and timings to be updated soon.
These households include:
residents of park homes
some care home residents
tenants in certain types of private and social rented homes
homes supplied by private wires
residents of caravans and houseboats on registered sites
farmers living in domestic farmhouses without a domestic electricity connection
households off the electricity grid
HOW YOU'LL GET THE PAYMENT
The payment will be delivered in different ways, depending on how you pay for your energy.
Customers with a domestic electricity meter point and a domestic electricity supply contract will receive the payment automatically from their electricity supplier.
You do not need to apply for the payment, and there’s no need to contact your electricity supplier.
You will not be asked for your bank details at any point.
Your electricity supplier will provide more guidance on the scheme.
If you’re a direct debit customer
You’ll get £600 deposited directly into your bank account from January 2023.
If you have a standard credit account (without a direct debit arrangement) or a prepay (keypad) meter
Your energy supplier will send you a £600 voucher from mid-January 2023, in the form of a letter containing a barcode. If a voucher is lost, it can be reissued.
You will need to take action to redeem the voucher - see the next section.
How to redeem a voucher
You can only redeem the voucher at a Post Office.
ID verification is needed to redeem the voucher, and the ID must match the account holder name on the voucher, so standard credit customers in particular may need to confirm their details with their supplier.
You must redeem the voucher by 31 March 2023. It will no longer be valid after this date.
The Post Office can either:
deposit the payment directly into your bank or credit union account if you provide your bank card or account details. This is the preferred option as it is most secure. Post Offices can make deposits into most major banks apart from Monzo and the Nationwide Building Society
provide cash, subject to cash availability at your Post Office branch. Please note that if you take the payment as cash and it is then stolen or lost, the payment will not be repeated
You need to take the following to the Post Office:
1. The letter containing the voucher.
2. Proof of address - this must show your address and be dated between 1 January 2022 and 1 January 2023. Acceptable proof of address includes (but is not limited to):
utility bill such as phone, water, electricity, TV licence
rental or mortgage agreement
letter from a UK government or Northern Ireland department
3. Photo ID - this must be valid at the time you redeem your voucher, and must be one of the following:
UK or EU / EEA photo driving licence
Armed Forces ID card or Police Warrant card
Northern Ireland Electoral Identity Card
Translink SmartPass (senior / 60+ / war disabled / blind person)
Asylum ID card
If you do not have photo ID, you will need to obtain it or contact your electricity supplier. See how to apply for an Electoral Identity Card.
4. Keypad customers only also need to bring their keypad app or top up card, in addition to the voucher, proof of address and photo ID. If you are not able to provide your top up card or app, you will not be able to redeem the voucher for the keypad.
Nominating someone to redeem the voucher on your behalf
If you are unable to take your voucher to the Post Office, you can nominate someone to redeem it on your behalf.
You must complete the template on the back of the voucher to provide written authorisation for the person you have nominated to redeem your payment.
To be able to redeem the payment on your behalf at the Post Office, the nominated person must take:
the voucher with completed authorisation
your photo ID and proof of address
their photo ID
your bank account details if the payment is being made into your account
if you are a keypad customer, they must show your keypad app or top up card
If you pay for your electricity as part of your rent
Your landlord may be reselling the electricity to you based on your usage, in which case:
they must comply with Uregni’s maximum resale price rules which say they must not make a profit
the maximum resale price for electricity is currently set at the same price as that paid by the person reselling it
If your landlord charges ‘all inclusive’ rent, where a fixed cost for energy usage is included in your rental charges, they are required to pass the appropriate share of the £600 payment on to you. Regulations for pass-through requirements will be brought forward for the Energy Bills Support Scheme Northern Ireland.
Commenting on today's announcement Energy and Climate Minister Graham Stuart said:
"We are determined to ensure that whatever their circumstances, every customer in Northern Ireland gets the support they are entitled to.
"Those without direct debits set up, and those on prepayment meters, will from January start to get these important vouchers which will provide vital help with their bills.
Those already paying by direct debit will get the support straight into their bank accounts.I would urge those customers getting vouchers to look out for them, and to use them swiftly so they can benefit, and see the impact on their bills as soon as possible.
Welcoming the detail, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said:
"This is welcome news for many Northern Ireland households who do not pay for their electricity via direct debit and I hope provides further reassurance as we enter the new year.
"I appreciate the hard work from officials and NI stakeholders to overcome the difficulties presented by NI’s energy market, and the absence of the NI Executive, to ensure NI households receive this much needed support this winter."
While today’s news should give peace of mind to customers in Northern Ireland, Mr Stuart also urged them to beware scams which the government is already aware are being attempted.
He warned customers that vouchers will come in the form of letters, will carry badges of the relevant electricity supplier and the UK government, and will contain a barcode. Customers will not be asked to go online or to provide any details.
The easiest way people can redeem their voucher will be paying the money directly into their bank account by taking their bank card to the Post Office and requesting to deposit. For those without a bank or credit union account, going to the Post Office and redeeming for cash will be an option – but that will be subject to the branch having the cash available.
Nick Read, Chief Executive at the Post Office, said:
"Our 500 Post Offices across Northern Ireland are at the heart of their communities and Postmasters are preparing for the vital role they will play in getting people the £600 support they are entitled to from mid-January.
"It’s vital that anyone who doesn’t pay for their energy usage by direct debit, or have a prepaid meter, looks out for their voucher in the post. Before coming to the Post Office, make sure to bring your letter, the correct proof of address and photo identification as this will speed things up in branch.
"We know how difficult the rising cost of energy has been for many. In Great Britain, we are administering the Energy Bill Support Scheme on behalf of six energy providers and each week hundreds of thousands of people are coming into our branches to get cash support. Our ability to move cash around the whole country is a national infrastructure asset and we will be using our experience to deliver this payment to people in Northern Ireland."