“POWERLESS” – ironically that’s how disability pensioner Sue-Ellen Firth feels as she braces for her next electricity bill.
NSW electricity prices increased by an average of 18 per cent as of yesterday, with the state’s pricing regulator blaming half that figure on the carbon tax.
For the 66-year-old, who suffered a stroke 12 years ago and is paralysed down her left side, the reason for this latest rise is not as important as how she will find the extra funds.
She has done just about everything she can think of to cut down on power yet her bill continues to climb.
“My last bill was up by $144,” she said.
“I’ve had to go to Centrelink and get them to take extra money out of my pension each fortnight so I can afford it.
“It’s just so hard. I’m extra careful.
“I use as little electricity as possible now. I have my medication, Homecare, gas, Telstra, rent, my funeral plan and food to pay for so there isn’t much left over.
“I really don’t know how some people will cope with this rise. I have friends who have been struggling already – this will only make things harder.”
Griffith Salvation Army major Karen Smith said the rise would put unbelievable strain on low-income residents who were already struggling, calling the increase “cruel”.
She is bracing for a surge in the number of people requiring assistance to pay their power bills.
“We have seen some really big ones lately and they are getting bigger. I’m really concerned for people’s wellbeing,” she said.
“We get allocated a certain amount of Electricity Account Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers each quarter and we always run out. I believe St Vinnies also get some.
“What we are seeing is an increase in the number of first-timers and for us that’s an indicator of the drastic change in people’s situations.
“I can’t believe they’ve done this again. I don’t know where it will end. I’m gobsmacked.
“It is hard on older people in particular who have struggled on for years to pay bills. I do worry
Mrs Smith said while they do expect to run out of their latest batch of EAPA vouchers, those in need shouldn’t hesitate to contact them as they will do their best to help in other ways.