A disabled woman who says she was unable to claim her energy support voucher from five different shops in Mottingham has described the situation as “frustrating and disgusting”.

As part of the Energy Bills Support Scheme, the government is providing every household with a £400 discount off their electricity bill which comes in six instalments and started from October 2022.

While those paying through direct debit automatically receive the discount, people on a traditional prepayment meter have to claim via a voucher which can be redeemed at a top-up point such as at a Post Office branch or a PayPoint shop.

Remy Richardson lives in Mottingham and is with Scottish Power on a prepayment meter – meaning she receives the voucher through on an email which contains a barcode to scan.

She said the first one she received in October was “really simple” and she took the voucher to her local post office to redeem.

However, when she tried to claim the second voucher in early November, she says she went to five different stores which “all refused to accept the voucher for different reasons”.

She claims that the staff at both the Londis store on Cranley Parade and the Costcutter on Beaconsfield Road said they were not allowed to accept the vouchers, and the Premier Store on Kimmeridge Road claimed the PayPoint scanner was not working.

At this point, Remy gave up and spent her last £40 on a top up for her gas and electric.

Remy, who is disabled and can’t work as she has problems with her thyroid, told the News Shopper: “I literally went from one to the other, literally, all five of them refused.

“I just think it's a very unfair when it is already hard for the consumer at the moment for them to make it even harder - this is meant to be in place to supposedly make it a little bit easier.”

“I knew I had money coming on the following Friday but that last £40 was meant to be there for food really – the voucher was a sort of a safety net for me.

“It's okay saying you can put blankets on or a dressing gown but the air in the house is cold and it feels quite damp.”

Remy said she was told at the Co-op supermarket on Kimmeridge Road that staff had been told they were no longer allowed to accept the online barcode voucher and that only paper barcodes are allowed.

A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “We’re sorry for any confusion and can confirm we accept the energy vouchers at all Co-op stores with PayPoint access.

“We have reminded our stores of the correct process.”

While Remy says that she feels like she could get by without the voucher, she can see how a “family with a couple of kids might find it really hard”.

She explained that there had been a lot of debate on a Mottingham-based Facebook groupp around what shops would accept the voucher and which ones were willing to split the payment across gas and electric - and that the responses never seemed consistent.

Remy said she “can't do a full day without her whole-body crashing”, and while if she is having a good day she can travel to find somewhere with a working Paypoint, not everyone can do that.

Remy explained: “We've got older people and disabled people in the community and they can't necessarily get on the bus and travel around looking for somewhere to claim the support.

“There is a guy who struggles to walk that I sometimes see shopping - he really struggles with his mobility and shuffles along.

“It will be people like him that are getting refused – what is he supposed to do?

“Some people might not have the mental capacity to know even who to ring up and complain about it or be able to speak to the people that supply the vouchers.

“I just think it's absolutely disgusting.”

The Guardian recently reported that an estimated 1.3million vouchers for homes with prepayment meters either lost, delayed or unclaimed and that “households have missed out on an estimated £80m of government help during the two months since the scheme launched”.

Remy said: “It's quite a horrible feeling that you've got to go ‘cap in hand’ anyway, but then to get refused when you've got something that says that you are entitled to that – when everyone else who pays direct debit has it taken automatically.

“It's just a bit of a double whammy to be perfectly honest.”

Remy sent an email to PayPoint via their online form to inform them of the situation with the shop refusals but did not receive a response.

A spokesperson for PayPoint told the News Shopper: “We’re very sorry that this customer has had such difficulty redeeming their EBSS vouchers and we will investigate the stores they have had issues with as a matter of priority.

“People are eligible to redeem their EBSS vouchers at any PayPoint store and if this isn’t the case then we would request that they let us know via our website so that we can investigate directly.

“PayPoint continues to facilitate a huge volume of EBSS voucher redemptions across its network and almost all of our 28,000 stores have been redeeming vouchers regularly since the scheme began.”

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