Many feel pinch
Energy costs leave residents out in cold
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 visit www.vinnies.org.au/findhelp
Keeping warm: Heating the house is no longer affordable for all Benalla residents.