WELFARE groups have reported a worrying rise in the number of local families doing it tough this Christmas, with cost-of-living pressures blamed for plunging people towards the poverty line.
The Salvation Army and Uniting Church in Tamworth have each reported more approaches from people seeking a helping hand to ensure they have something on the table and under the tree at Christmas.
Each year the Uniting church in Marius St assembles dozens of hampers laden with donated goods for distribution to residents in need across the Tamworth community.
Parishioner Lorraine Furze said usually two weeks out from Christmas it had about 50 names registered, but this year there were already 100 people in line to receive a hamper.
She said there was little doubt cost-of-living expenses such as electricity and medical bills, as well as concerns over job security, were putting people in financial difficulty.
“It’s actually on the increase, unfortunately,” she said.
“We’re finding a range of those sorts of things are really impacting on people’s finances.
“There’s lots of people who just struggle at this time of the year.”
Major David Rogerson from the Salvation Army in Tamworth said it had been apparent for a while this would be a difficult Christmas for many families.
“It’s not only at this particular time, but there’s been an increase over the last six to 12 months of demand on our services,” he said.
“But that’s particularly experienced at Christmas time, when the expectation is of holidays, banquets and toys.”
An indication of just how widespread the belt-tightening has become is that donations to popular annual local appeals are tracking below that of previous years.
Kmart Tamworth customer service manager Jenny Cross said only about 500 presents had been donated so far to its Wishing Tree Appeal since its launch last month.
“Up until this week it’s been very slow and we are a little bit behind at the moment,” she said.
“I think all of a sudden people have realised it’s Christmas and they are out there shopping now for Christmas, but before that it’s been quite quiet.
“I believe we need to get about 2000 in order to fulfil the needs of people within our area.”