SOME pensioners and other low-income residents still reeling from recent high energy bills will be loathe to leave their heaters on for long in this week’s cold snap.
Many are still paying off their last whopping electricity and gas bills — some as high as $1000.
Anecdotal evidence suggests some people wrapped themselves in blankets, beanies and gloves to stay warm, reluctant to use their heaters in an effort to chop the next bills.
Welfare agencies said yesterday there had been a steady increase in clients seeking advice and assistance in coping with higher energy charges which kicked in on July 1.
Many were advised to apply for a government utility relief grant — which provides one-off assistance — and to negotiate a time payment plan.
Anglicare’s Warrnambool community development co-ordinator Louise Serra said there had been a marked increase in demand since July. “Blankets, beanies and scarves have been in high demand,” she said. “We see a lot of older single males and young families.
“They are on a fine line as it is and with higher energy bills they find it difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army also reported increased numbers of clients struggling with energy bills.
President of the society’s west Warrnambool parish, Lorraine Dooley, said it was sad when older people huddled under blankets in their homes for fear of turning the heaters on.
“People are finding it harder with rising fuel costs, particularly electricity,” she said.
“We are advising them to get on plans to pay it off over longer periods.”
Salvation Army administration manager Chris Philpot said some people were juggling the priorities of paying energy bills and providing basic needs of food and clothing.
“Some have seen their energy bills double on last year — up to $1000 if they had been keeping up their payments,” he said.