Thousands of households are still waiting for the £150 energy rebate more than two months after the scheme to help with the rising cost of living was launched.
The payment, part of a package of measures announced by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in February, is aimed at those living in properties in council tax bands A to D and designed to help cover rising energy bills.
However, although the government said grants “should be paid as soon as possible from April” many households are yet to receive the money.
Morgan Wild, head of policy at Citizens Advice, said: “The council tax rebate was designed to help people with April’s rise in energy prices. It needs to be paid as soon as possible.
“The government did the right thing in expanding the support targeted at lower income households. But our advisers are telling us that people they’re helping don’t know how to, or haven’t been able to, access some of this previously promised support.”
In Scotland, councils are typically crediting the rebate to eligible residents’ accounts so they pay a smaller bill each month, but in England and Wales the system is different.
Those households most in need of the money, for example people who pay their bill through benefits or who are exempt from paying council tax, are facing the longest waits.
Some councils are yet to reveal how or when customers who don’t use direct debit will receive the money.
A recent Guardian callout for readers still waiting for payments resulted in hundreds of messages from people around England who were waiting for their payments.
Nottingham resident Patricia Greenwell, 69, pays her council tax bill by bank transfer every month. Greenwell is retired but has taken on a part-time job as a university exam invigilator as her state pension does not cover the rising cost of living, with soaring energy bills a particular worry.
“I try to extend patience to the local authority because Nottingham city council has been badly affected by government cuts over a prolonged period of time … so possibly their IT systems are not as up to scratch as they might like them to be,” she said.
“My heating charges have doubled from £71 a month to £142. I live on my own in the smallest house I could afford to buy.
“I try to be patient with the council but we’re in June now and it hasn’t been a particularly warm spring, I’m still using my heating. I just don’t see when it’s going to be paid; I have no expectation of it coming by September.”
Another reader, Sladjana Milosevic-Grey, a self-employed translator from Bath, pays her council tax bill via standing order after being overcharged when she paid by direct debit in the past.
Milosevic-Grey, who lives with her husband who claims a state pension, said the money would be “really useful” as they had recently received a £900 electricity bill for the previous three months.
“There are some other people who really are on the margins of society, so to speak, and they pay cash and they are the people who need the rebate more than other people,” she said.
“Surely if [the council] can take your money, they can give it back to you.”
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Nottingham city council said it recognised “in an historic cost-of-living crisis, that our residents are really in need of this council tax rebate to help with energy bills”, adding that it had “been difficult for local authorities around the country because we’re all having to facilitate payments within the constraints of a government system which is far from perfect”.
Adele Williams, the deputy leader of the local authority, said: “Paying by bank transfer doesn’t provide us with bank details and therefore we’ve had to establish and roll out a new system to securely collect this information, while also performing due diligence to ensure that only eligible households are able to apply and to minimise fraud.”
A government spokesperson said the rebate was “just one part” of a £37bn package to help people with rising living costs.
“The majority of eligible households have received their rebate, and we expect that almost all will have been paid by the end of June,” they said. “Direct debit is the quickest, easiest way to get the rebate but councils have a range of other options.”
Richard Samuel, the deputy leader of Bath and North East Somerset council, said: “Making payments to people who do not pay by direct debit has posed a greater challenge, but we are working hard to get the money paid as soon as possible.
“We will be contacting non-direct-debit payers in the next few weeks asking them to apply for the payment.”