Powerless: Rise in bills coincides with calls for help

Help needed: Case worker at Campbelltown's the Nagle Centre has seen an large influx of clients requesting help to pay their electricity bills. Picture: Simon Bennett
Help needed: Case worker at Campbelltown's the Nagle Centre has seen an large influx of clients requesting help to pay their electricity bills. Picture: Simon Bennett

Fill your stomach or warm your bones.

That’s the choice facing many Campbelltown households struggling to find the money for rising power bills.

And the St Vincent de Paul Society has the evidence to back up the hardship faced by those locals.

From July 1, 2016 till June 30 this year, Vinnies – via the Nagle Centre in Campbelltown – handed out 1420 vouchers worth $50 each to help those struggling to pay power bills.

However, figures from the last month and a half are any indication, that total will be eclipsed by Christmas.

Since July 1 this year, 373 vouchers totalling 18,650 have already been issued to Campbelltonians.

Nagle Centre case worker Rebecca Cisneros said the increase in requests for assistance had been obvious.

“It’s been fairly dramatic,” she said.

“The majority of my appointments over the last couple of months have been for electricity bills. This time of year we do see a lot of of people need help with their winter bills, but this amount we have had is unusual.”

On July 1 this year, the impact of the government’s decision to privatise NSW’s electricity assets kicked in with with the average household expected to fork out an extra $300 a year on electricity bills as a result.

Mrs Cisneros said families were being faced with difficult choices as a result of the rising electricity bills.

“A lot of have to choose between food and the electricity bill,” she said.

“Some use one light bulb throughout the house, while others don’t have warm showers or only use one stove top.

“These are very hard choices to make.

“It’s not going to be sustainable for people to keep paying (power bills). It will just cause them to struggle further.”

Mrs Cisneros urged those in need of assistance to call the Nagle Centre on 4628 2928 and organise an appointment with a case worker.

“A lot of people say the hardest thing to do is walk through the front door (of the Nagle Centre) because they are proud and it’s very hard to ask for help,” she said.

“But you shouldn’t hesitate to come in. Call us because we are happy to make an appointment.”

The number of vouchers handed out in Camden and Wollondilly, while not as drastically higher, have still risen.

In the last financial year there were 603 handed out to residents in the two areas. Since July 1 this year, 67 have been issues.