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Energy Bills Support Scheme: Alternative Funding

Volume 726: debated on Tuesday 17 January 2023

13. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the energy bills support scheme alternative funding. (903119)

The energy bills support scheme alternative funding will provide £400 of credit to around 900,000 households without a direct relationship with an electricity supplier. This matches the energy bills support scheme in Great Britain, which is automatically delivering the discount to 29 million households.

My constituency is home to a number of residents who are waiting for the energy bills support scheme alternative funding. Despite the Government confirming alternative funding on 1 April 2022, not a penny has been paid to date. Why is this taking so long? When do the Government estimate the first payment will be received?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s frustration. It is complicated. We do not live in a database society, so finding and identifying these people without putting public money at risk has been challenging. I am delighted to say, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, that a pilot programme using the Government portal, and a telephone support service for those who struggle to access the portal, went live yesterday. We aim to have the portal open at the end of the month. If all goes well with the pilot, payments will be processed by local authorities and will go out as soon as possible in February, and certainly this winter. That is our aspiration.

I am afraid the Government are testing the patience of park home owners in my constituency. I have previously asked the Minister whether he can confirm that payments will be made directly to park home owners, rather than park home operators. Can he confirm that point, and that payments will be made as a block sum? Or will they be paid monthly, as per the standard programme?

I have spoken on a number of occasions with my hon. Friend, and with colleagues on both sides of the House, about making sure these residents are not forgotten. We have worked hard to make sure we have a system that can stand up and deliver. We give the funding to local authorities and, as soon as they have gone through the process and made the necessary verifications for the payment to go out, a single payment will be paid directly into the bank accounts of the people concerned.