St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has distributed more Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers across the state, including in Parkes, than it did this time last year.
The charity’s CEO Jack de Groot said that in the first three weeks of this financial year they had already distributed more vouchers in NSW than they did in the three months of winter last year.
On a local level, Vinnies distributed $91,800 worth of EAPA vouchers in the Parkes and Forbes regions last financial year (2016/17).
The charity has calculated that in the first three weeks of this financial year in Parkes and Forbes, they had already distributed $13,500.
If the trend continues at this rate, Vinnies is predicting the local figure for this year could be around $162,000.
“We are anticipating it could even be higher as the 20 per cent price increase has yet to be felt as people wait for their bills to come in,” Mr de Groot said.
“Vinnies is the largest provider of the NSW Government vouchers and data collected from our members and staff distributing EAPA vouchers paints a shocking picture.”
Each voucher is worth $50 and goes towards the individual’s electricity bill.
Over July, August and September last year Vinnies distributed about $360,000 worth of EAPA vouchers across the state.
Between July 1-26 this year, Vinnies handed out $400,000 of vouchers.
“We’re already seeing a significant increase in the amount of people we’re assisting as well as the amount of assistance they are requiring,” Mr de Groot said.
“Last year over 55,000 people across NSW were assisted by Vinnies with EAPA vouchers.”
On July 1 the Department of Planning introduced digital vouchers to improve the efficiency and useability of the voucher system, making the huge spike in demand for vouchers readily visible.
“The figures for winter EAPA voucher distribution are just scraping the surface,” Mr de Groot said.
“In terms of the scale of extra assistance, we are also giving out to people struggling to make ends meet.
“At the end of the day EAPA vouchers are there to help people to stay ahead by reducing their energy bills, but they are a band-aid solution to the deep incision made by rising rental, electricity and transport costs.
“This, together with the Government’s lack of planning is making it more difficult for low and middle income earners to live safely and with dignity in affordable housing in this state.”