A PETITION is being launched today calling on the Government to create a grant fund to help people who can’t afford their energy bills due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The CEO of People’s Energy, the crowdfunded energy firm that has pledged to give 75% of its profits back to members through an annual rebate, has called on the UK and Scottish Governments to take urgent action to create a grant scheme for those who can’t pay their bills.

READ MORE: Millions of elderly people to ration energy usage over price fears

David Pike, who co-founded People’s Energy in 2017 as an alternative to the big six suppliers, says he is increasingly concerned about the number of calls his firm is receiving from customers in severe financial distress caused by job losses, business failures and benefits delays linked to coronavirus.

“There are two major risks that we see escalating in the coming days,” he said. “Firstly, many residents across the country are in severe financial distress and will be unable to pay their bills, or have to choose between buying fuel or food.

‘‘The scale of need is one which energy-firm-led hardship funds cannot fill, so we are asking the Government for urgent support in the coming weeks to provide funds to help those who cannot pay in the form of a grant scheme.

READ MORE: Scottish Power Energy Networks unveils coronavirus contingency plan

“The second issue is that should competitors go out of business due to missed payments by customers, the normal Ofgem process of moving customers over to another supplier may not work.

“Many firms now do not have the back-office support in place to transition new customers over. This would seriously affect consumers.”

He said that while the UK Government had brought in some help for customers in distress in March, support was not being provided to the energy suppliers to deliver it. “Like many other energy firms across the country we believe a grant scheme is the only way to address this issue quickly before things get much worse,” he said.

READ MORE: One in 10 Scots say power bills are ‘unaffordable’, major survey finds

The People’s Energy co-founder continued on to say that without a grant scheme, “people across the country will continue to feel incredibly distressed”.

He said: “Energy supply firms will go out of business and ultimately this may cause a domino effect with a series of energy suppliers collapsing, a scenario which would have detrimental effect on the service offered to customers.”

A petition to allow members of the public to pledge their support for the campaign has been created here: www.change.org/p/uk-and-scottish-governments-the-government-should-create-an-energy-grant-fund-for-those-in-financial-distress

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