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Families struggling to pay for essential services

Each year Communicare assists literally thousands of people with Emergency Relief. This relief comes in the form of emergency food vouchers, rent assistance, phone bills, water bills, gas bills and electricity bills.


The biggest area of concern in the past twelve months, however is the growing number of people who have sought assistance to pay their electricity bills.


In the first quarter of 2012 Communicare has increased support for payment of electricity bills by more than $10,000 compared to the same quarter in 2011.


CEO Martine Pitt is not surprised by this increase, “families are struggling to keep up with increases in essential services and housing costs when they are not receiving reflective increases in their household wages.”


“What is concerning for Communicare is that with our limited funding we only have so much we can give and the support for electricity payments comes from the same pool of money we use to provide food, rent and all other essential services support.”


“In the 1st quarter of 2012 39% of all ER funds were spent on electricity bill support, compared with 25% in the same quarter last year. This amount is over and above that provided by the government under the HUGS program, the $23,489.57 is coming directly out of Communicare’s ER budget.”



“If ERA price increase suggestions become a reality Communicare will have no option but to devote an even larger percentage of our ER funds to electricity payments which puts pressure on our ability to provide support for other essentials such as food,” said Ms Pitt.


“There may be a need to cover the gap between supply and revenue when it comes to electricity but a question also needs to be raised about how we are going to provide support to the increase in people who are no longer going to be able to afford to keep their lights on,” said Ms Pitt.


Communicare is particularly worried about the effect of this increase on families with small children and the elderly.


“Predicted increases are likely to hit right in the middle of winter this year which means families already under pressure may have to find alternative ways to keep themselves warm when they are faced with the challenge of keeping the power running,” said Ms Pitt.


“There has to be a solution where we as a prosperous country can ensure that every person can afford to turn on the lights and stay warm during winter without having to experience extra financial stress,” said Ms Pitt.

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