DESPERATE families are turning to local welfare agencies in record numbers to ease the pressure of spiralling electricity bills, charity leaders have revealed.
The local St Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army welfare centres have been swamped by needy residents in recent months, the majority going cap-in-hand for electricity bill relief.
“The need has gone up substantially and we’ve certainly noticed it hit since the end of last year,” Tamworth Salvation Army captain Cathy Rogerson said.
“People are putting aside $50 a fortnight from their Centrelink payment to soften the blow – but it’s not nearly enough.
“People are coming to us in tears saying ‘we just can’t pay it’.
“And it’s not just welfare recipients, it’s people working five days a week.”
The revelation comes after the release of figures showing New England residents were paying close to 30 per cent more for electricity than their city cousins.
Consumer advocates have warned with a blistering summer just around the corner, the power bill pain was only going to get worse for locals.
Kerry Muir from St Vincent de Paul said electricity cost pressures had contributed to the organisation’s local chapter blowing its welfare budget by more than $40,000 in the last financial year.
“The vouchers we receive each quarter run out very quickly and demand has gone up substantially,” Mr Muir said.
“More than half of the new people that approach us do so because of their electricity bill.
“Some have been disconnected by their power company and are using gas burners to heat food.”
Residents were this week urged to contact their electricity provider, if they hadn’t already done so, to ask for a usage rate discount.
Local man David Spong did just that and said it was an easier experience than he expected.
“Thanks to the tip given the other day, I have just received a 12-month deal with Origin where I get a 7 per cent discount and a further 1 per cent off for paying by direct debit,” Mr Spong said.