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- Press Release
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CHARIS ROLLS OUT SEAMLESS DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS
FOR INCREASING VOLUME OF FUEL POVERTY GRANTS
Charis Grants Ltd, the UK’s leading administrator of hardship grants and funds, has collaborated with CleverCards to develop a digital payment system that overhauls the time and administrative costs needed to distribute energy grants to households affected by the escalating increase in fuel bills this winter. The Digital Payment Card will give local authorities, charities, social housing associations and Citizen Advice Bureaus a fast, easy way to process grant payments which are intended specifically for energy bills.
The Digital Payment Card is powered by Mastercard and can be used exclusively for energy bills. It is accessed through the Charis online shop platform, where the associations and authorities can input and process all eligibility criteria and make the digital payments directly to the beneficiary in one simple text message.
Charis’ business development director Oliver Gray commented:
“In the coming months, National Energy Action forecasts suggest that the number of people slipping into fuel poverty will be close to eight million – double the amount from the last couple of years. This means that more people will need help with their energy bills, and not just those on pre-payment meters. Households with smart meters, paying monthly or by direct debit will also need help. Charis identified an urgent need to efficiently distribute energy and fuel payments to these customers.”
The beneficiary receives a text message or email with an image of the digital payment card which looks just like a Mastercard. They must click a link to activate the card and release the CVC number, and then the card details can be used to pay their energy costs online in the same way as any credit card. Charis’ traditional voucher system for pre-paid meters has a maximum value of £49. The new Charis digital payment card can be pre-loaded with units of £30, £50 up to £100. This allows charities and local authorities to provide a much higher value support to their client base.
Usually, fuel payments are distributed via vouchers for households with prepaid meters, of which Ofgem estimates there are about four million. Individuals would go to places such as the Post Office or Paypoint, where they could top up their meters using those vouchers. The digital payment card solves the problem of how to issue funds to households with smart meters, enabling the funds to be used in the same way as any credit card when paying for something online. Checks are automatically built into the digital technology to ensure that the payments are only used for the stated energy payments, reducing the risk of fraud, and guaranteeing that the funds are only used for the stated use.
“Not only are we facilitating the entire process from the front end for charities and local authorities. We also ensure that all reporting and auditing obligations are met via our established and proven Charis shop back-end reporting functionality,” continued Oliver Gray. “In the urgency to get the funds to those who are most vulnerable, it is easy to get lost in the sheer volume of demand. Our technology will enable our clients to cope with increasing volumes of demand while still improving on the speed of response and reducing the risk of fraudulent claims.”
Charis Grants Ltd is a privately owned company established in 2003 to facilitate the distribution of funds and grants by energy companies, charities, housing associations and other bodies, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, which help and support vulnerable people in the community.