Post Office ‘Payout’ voucher service provides vulnerable customers with cash for heating

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Post Office is urging the UK Government, local councils and energy companies to make use of its “Payout” voucher service that enables customers to redeem Warm Home Discounts or receive other cash grants at their local branch.

Ahead of Ofgem’s energy price cap increase announcement on Monday 7 February (effective Friday 1 April) and the concerns millions of people will have about rising energy bills, Postmasters who operate branches in every part of the country, can play a vital role in supporting people through the energy crisis.

Post Office’s 11,500 branch network and its ability to move cash around the country at speed means it has the capacity to enable hundreds of thousands of energy customers to redeem Warm Home Discounts or receive other cash grants over the Winter should they be widely extended to customers.

‘Payout’ is a one-time voucher-based transaction. The voucher is sent by SMS text, email or letter and customers redeem the voucher by presenting the barcode to the Postmaster. For those with an energy top-up voucher, a credit is placed on the customers pre-payment gas card or electric key. For customers who have received a voucher from their local council or a charity, they can redeem their voucher for cash.

“This is a worrying time for millions of families, individuals and older people when it comes to rising energy prices and how to pay to keep your home warm,” said Martin Kearsley, Banking and Bill Payments Director. “Our ‘Payout’ voucher service is a quick and easy way for the energy companies in particular to give credits to their customers or for local councils to get cash payments out to their most vulnerable residents.

“We previously operated the voucher scheme at scale during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic on behalf of the banks and it works. Our ability to move cash around the country quickly is a national infrastructure asset and can be used to provide much needed support to people over this Winter.”

As at 31 December 2021, Post Offices had seen a 129 per cent increase in the number of customers completing a ‘Payout’ voucher transaction compared to the same point at 31 December 2020.

A recent Post Office poll found that more than one in five consumers were very concerned about difficulties paying household bills in 2022. Overall, 56 per cent of consumers were concerned. More than one in four consumers said they were very concerned about the cost of purchasing essential food items increasing in 2022.

Post Office advises customers with concerns about energy prices or difficulties with paying a bill to contact their energy supplier directly in the first instance or contact Citizens Advice for help and advice. A customer could be entitled to a Warm Home Discount. This entitles eligible customers to currently receive £140 credit against the cost of energy between October and March. Post Office processes around 500,000 of these payments each winter.

Customers of all the major energy companies can pay bills or top up their pre-payment meters at Post Office’s 11,500 branches across the UK. This can also be done at 13,000 Payzone outlets which are typically located in convenience stores. Full details can be found here.

The combined Post Office and Payzone estate provides 24,000 outlets where energy bills and top cards can be paid for in cash. Energy customers can also pay their bills at locations operated by strategic partners including Tesco, Co-op, Spar, McColls and WH Smiths.

Martin Kearsley added: “Postmasters and Payzone retailers keep their branches open long hours and weekends providing much needed face-to-face support for customers struggling with their energy bills and can point them to charities that are able to provide detailed advice and guidance on managing energy bills.”