We all must work together to ride out the recession — including big business

Our Ride Out Recession Alliance is bringing together people, charities and businesses to protect jobs and prevent homelessness. Here are a few small ways in which firms are helping people facing financial hardship

It’s the responsibility of all of us to look after the people hit hardest by the pandemic. That means big businesses too. That’s why our Ride Out Recession Alliance is bringing together groups like Unilever and The Nationwide Foundation to protect jobs and prevent homelessness. Here’s how a few are helping their customers as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause financial havoc:

• Following the start of lockdown, all major mobile phone network and broadband providers met with Ofcom to discuss measures to ensure vulnerable customers can stay connected. The result is that all providers are offering free access to NHS websites irrespective of data plans. O2 take this further with free access to websites dealing with mental health, such as Mind and the Samaritans, as well as debt, including StepChange,  Citizens Advice and more.

• There have also been plenty of offers of free data for vulnerable customers to keep in contact with others while apart from friends and loved ones. Vodafone initially offered 500,000 customers an automatic free upgrade of unlimited data for 30 days during lockdown before rolling it out as a VeryMe reward for other customers. 

 Virgin Media is offering to help people on Universal Credit keep connected with a special cut-price package just for the 5.6 million people who have turned to the benefits system. Universal Credit adopts a digital-by-default application system so you will already have navigated that process. But new and existing Virgin Media customers will receive 15mbps speed broadband for £15 per month from this autumn and there is no fixed term, so they can stop at any time.

• All major high street and challenger banks are offering support with overdrafts. Until October 31. If you are struggling due to the impact of Covid-19, you can apply for the first £500 of your overdraft to be made interest-free for a three-month period, with scope for an extension.

• Ofgem have lowered the price cap due to cheaper gas wholesale prices. The regulator has slashed the default price cap to £1,042, saving on average £84, while pre-payment meters could save £95 with a price cap drop to £1,070. Around 11 million households on default tariffs and four million on prepayment meters are set to benefit, though recovering wholesale prices may make the cut short-lived.

• With the furlough scheme winding down and workers slowly returning to work outside the home, Volkswagen has introduced a zero per cent APR finance option allowing customers to spread the cost of servicing, MOTs, tyres and general maintenance and repairs, as well as accessories with no extra fees.

We need your voices in our Ride Out Recession Alliance

The Big Issue is bringing together companies, charities and organisations to work towards the shared goals of preventing homelessness and protecting jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unilever, Shelter and Nationwide Foundation are just some of the heavy-hitters backing our campaign. But we need your support too. Tell us YOUR stories and ideas at rora@bigissue.com now. If you tell us the problem, we can help fix it.  The time is now.