A huge number of West Aussies are struggling financially, with recent figures revealing the number of households needing help to pay utility bills almost trebled last financial year.
State Government stats show that even before an 11 per cent hike in electricity prices came into effect on July 1 the number of people battling to afford their utility bills had rocketed.
The department for communities said there were almost 40,000 applications to HUGS — which covers electricity, gas and water bills — in the 12 months to June 30, which is more than double the application received in the previous financial year.
The direct result is that the amount of money paid out under the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (aka HUGS) to Synergy customers alone rose from $4.3 million in 2015-16 to $11.4 million in 2016-17.
Under the scheme, eligible householders are entitled to grants of $581 a year for those living south of the 26th parallel and $962 for those above it.
Last year’s total HUGS payments — about $15.5 million — and number of applications were the highest recorded since the scheme was started in 2009 by the former Barnett government in response to rocketing gas, water and electricity prices.
Financial Counsellors Association WA executive officer Bev Jowle said the “huge” increase was a concern and pointed to WA’s economic woes.“We can only see it probably getting worse, to be honest,” she said.
“One of our issues with HUGS is it’s great to give that urgent relief but it doesn’t actually solve the problem, which is the cost of power is going up and the people who can least afford it are paying the most.
“If you’re on a low fixed income, a slice of that income is increasingly going to one area like your power bill. Where do you think it’s coming away from? It’s coming away from food and other essential items that a family needs like health care.”
A Treasury spokeswoman said the Government had moved to help those in need by topping up the HUGS program and reinstating funding for financial counsellors.
“The financial counselling program, which was scrapped by the former Liberal-National government, will be reinstated with $5.6 million allocated to the program across the forward estimates period,” she said.
“This Government recognises that since the financial counsellors program was cut, the number of people accessing the HUGS program has more than doubled.”
Article Source – PerthNow, 24 July 2017.
At Life After Debt we are used to hearing stories like this. Clients call us literally not knowing what to do or where to turn to for help. Our team is here to talk – to help you assess your situation and the best way forward. That may be accessing HUGS or a NILS loan. That may mean contacting a Financial Counsellor or discussing Hardship Options with your Creditors. If you have exhausted that or its just not possible, we can assess alternatives like an Informal Arrangement with Creditors or a Part 9 Debt Agreement to help you avoid Bankruptcy and take the debt stress away.
We want to help you – call us today on 1300 237 669 or fill in the contact form and we will be in touch.