Families struggling to pay utility and phone bills due to the coronavirus outbreak must be given extra financial support, UK ministers have been told.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has called on Boris Johnson to roll out new measures to ensure households have the support they need as unemployment rises, incomes are reduced and utility costs and usage surges.
In a letter to the prime minister, Mr Blackford called for an “emergency coronavirus energy grant” which would protect families accruing unmanageable debts and asked ministers to allow for a six-month reprieve on utilities being cut off – to prevent struggling households from losing access to energy and telecoms utilities during the crisis.
The SNP boss also called on the UK Government to freeze prices to keep costs manageable.
The freeze would include including flat-rate telephone calls and landline charges suspended during the day to help people stay in touch with their families and loved ones.
Mr Blackford said: “This is a deeply worrying time for us all – but absolutely no one should be left struggling to heat their home or keep in touch with their families during this unprecedented emergency.
“Household bills and utility usage are going up at the same time that millions of people are seeing a reduction or complete loss of their income. Many are concerned they will be unable to pay – and worried they will be cut off or left with unmanageable debts.
“The UK government must get round the table with opposition parties, energy and telecoms providers – so people can get the help they need and no one is left behind.”
The demands come after the UK Government announced an unprecedented package of support to steady the economy at the outset of the crisis.
The Treasury has made available £330bilion in business loans and guarantees, agreed to pay 80% of the wages of furloughed and self employed workers for three months, agreed to VAT and tax deferrals and introduced cash grants of up to £25,000 for small companies.