THE UK Government is accused of “taking the piss” by sending out letters to benefits recipients printed with the question: “What would you do with an extra £290?”

The accusation came from an anonymous reader who flagged to The National that the envelope in which they received their Winter Fuel Payment notification suggested they change energy provider in order to save hundreds of pounds a year.

The envelopes, dated September 2021, have been sent out by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which earlier this month oversaw a cut to Universal Credit of more than £1000 a year.

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Furthermore, as wholesale gas prices have spiralled by 250% since the start of the year, MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis has said that the best advice he can offer for people is to “do nothing” with their energy tariff, as changing now is likely to lead to a huge increase in payments.

However, the UK Government envelope suggests people call an advice service to find out how to save money by “switching to the cheapest tariff on the market”. A DWP spokesperson suggested the envelope may have been sent to around 11 million people.

The National: The envelope sent to an anonymous reader and benefit recipient asking what they would do with 'an extra £290' The envelope sent to an anonymous reader and benefit recipient asking what they would do with 'an extra £290'

The messaging is another example of “abdicating responsibility” for the hardships facing the worst off across Scotland and the UK, the Scottish Greens said.

This sentiment was echoed by the SNP, with Alan Brown MP saying it is “incumbent on the Chancellor [Rishi Sunak] to take responsibility for this mess”.

Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell said: "The UK Government has a responsibility to support those in fuel poverty, but instead it is presiding over an outdated and unreliable system. With soaring energy prices consumers need certainty that prices will be properly capped, or that they'll receive financial support that actually reflects the bills that they are paying.

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"Suggesting people visit price comparison sites and navigate the many complex tariffs when prices are rising across the board is not only abdicating responsibility but also demonstrating clearly the fundamental problems with our ridiculous privatised energy network.

“The Scottish Greens recently announced a new heat and buildings strategy that will improve insulation, a measure that is good both for the climate and for consumers pockets, and help households move to sustainable heating systems. The huge fluctuations in gas prices shows why we can't afford to rely on volatile fossil fuels.

“In the meantime the UK Government needs to get its house in order and ensure that people are supported to heat their homes throughout the winter without facing eye-watering bills at the end of the month.”

Brown added: "The UK is currently facing a Tory cost of living crisis - with low and middle income families being hammered by Tory cuts, regressive tax hikes, rising energy bills and the soaring cost of Brexit.

"It is incumbent on the Chancellor to take responsibility for this mess and deliver the help that is needed, or face the prospect of many families forcing to choose between heating and eating this winter.”

A DWP spokesperson said: "This is an initiative that has been in place for a number of years to encourage switching and the latest batch of ten million envelopes was created before the rise in energy prices. The message is simply a suggestion.

"It would've been impractical, costly and wasteful to replace the ten million envelopes with new ones, and crucially it would potentially compromise our ability to make millions of Winter Fuel Payments before Christmas."