Many feel pinch

En­ergy costs leave res­i­dents out in cold

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Si­mon Rup­pert

Be­nalla’s res­i­dents are strug­gling to stay warm this win­ter as ris­ing power costs are forc­ing many to switch the heater off just to save money.

Re­search con­ducted by Gal­axy on be­half of iS­elect has shown that nine out of 10 Vic­to­rian house­holds are wor­ried about their win­ter en­ergy bill.

A more alarm­ing trend is that more Vic­to­ri­ans than ever say they are ex­tremely con­cerned about how they will pay for heat­ing bills, with only one third of res­i­dents able to pay their bill when it ar­rives.

Fig­ures pro­vided by St Vin­cent de Paul So­ci­ety show that there has been a 63 per cent in­crease in its pro­vi­sion of gen­eral wel­fare sup­port in Be­nalla in the past three years.

This in­cludes a 32 per cent in­crease in the past year alone.

The St Vin­cent de Paul So­ci­ety is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing poverty and has found an in­creas­ing num­ber of Be­nalla res­i­dents are strug­gling to pay power bills as well as keep food on the ta­ble. St Vin­cent de Paul Be­nalla’s grassroots vol­un­teer group pres­i­dent Stephen Kelly said he had seen a rise in the amount of lo­cal peo­ple strug­gling to make ends meet.

‘‘Our shops in north-east Vic­to­ria used to be able to pass up prof­its to other ar­eas on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,’’ Mr Kelly said.

‘‘We are no longer able to do that.

‘‘This year we have gone be­yond our bud­get for the first time in 10 years.’’

Mr Kelly said a stan­dard piece of ad­vice now of­fered to peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hard­ship was to wear more clothes be­fore us­ing elec­tric­ity or gas to warm the house.

Choos­ing not to turn the heater on, even when it is very cold, is some­thing that is be­com­ing nor­mal for many Be­nalla res­i­dents.

Laura Crow­den, spokesper­son for iS­elect, said de­spite Be­nalla ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an­other cold win­ter, more than 68 per cent of res­i­dents avoided us­ing heat­ing reg­u­larly out of fear of re­ceiv­ing a huge bill.

‘‘And it’s not just heat­ing; our study sug­gests that many Vic­to­rian house­holds are also cut­ting back on es­sen­tials like food and cloth­ing to af­ford their en­ergy bills,’’ Ms Crow­den said.

With plenty of cold nights and days left of win­ter it is front­line vol­un­teers in Be­nalla’s char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions who are see­ing the true cost of high en­ergy prices.

Pam God­frey from the Be­nalla Red Cross shop said she had ex­pe­ri­enced a higher-than-av­er­age num­ber of older res­i­dents re­quest­ing warm woollen cloth­ing.

‘‘They are com­ing in for any­thing that’s wool,’’ Ms God­frey said.

‘‘Peo­ple are even re­quest­ing warm blan­kets for their cats and dogs as tem­per­a­tures stay low.’’ There are var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions in Be­nalla that can help peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hard­ship.

Mr Kelly says St Vin­cent de Paul had been work­ing closely with other or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as Angli­care to en­sure as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble could be as­sisted.

‘‘We are re­ally thank­ful that Be­nalla res­i­dents are so gen­er­ous,’’ Mr Kelly said. ‘‘We do ap­pre­ci­ate their help. ‘‘I would like to ex­tend a big thank you to all St Vin­nies vol­un­teers.’’

● If you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hard­ship you can phone St Vin­cent de Paul on 0439 656 118, call in to the St Vin­cent de Paul as­sis­tance of­fice in Car­rier St or visit­­help

Keep­ing warm: Heat­ing the house is no longer af­ford­able for all Be­nalla res­i­dents.

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