Concerns for keypad customers as £600 energy support payment rollout begins in Northern Ireland

Concerns have been raised that some people may miss out on the £600 energy support payments that began rolling out in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

UUP MLA Andy Allen, speaking as the payments began on January 3, called for "clarity" from the UK government for those entitled to the support payment whose names are not registered with an electricity provider.

The payments are being administered by electricity companies.

Those who pay by direct debit should receive the money directly into their bank account from the energy firm they were signed up to on January 2.

Energy bill.
Energy bill.
Energy bill.

Keypad customers, meanwhile, are due to receive a voucher that can be exchanged for cash or deposited in bank accounts.

The payments should be forthcoming between now and March 31.

East Belfast MLA Mr Allen, who welcomed the beginning of the payment roll-out, expressed concern for those whose names are not associated with an electricity account - such as those who recently moved into a new property or who top-up with a keypad registered to a landlord.

"We now need to shift our focus to making sure this £600 gets to everybody who is entitled to it. That will be a significant body of work for the energy providers, the electricity companies, who are being asked to administer this,” he told the News Letter.

"It's vital, it's much needed, because people are really struggling. There needs to be clear communication as to the different aspects of it. So, for example, we're already fielding inquiries from people who haven't got their name registered with their electric provider. We need clarity for those people. The date that is being quoted for the databases being downloaded is January 2, which was earlier this week, so we need clarity on what people can do if their name wasn't registered by that date.”

He added: "Whilst this scheme is vital, it is important to remember this is a short term measure. It is not going to address poverty, it is not going to address fuel poverty. We need to be working on the medium to long term solutions. There are only two ways we can do that – either through an Executive, or through Westminster taking on the mantle if it's decided we're not going to have an Executive."