Low cost school holiday activities

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26 September, 2018

Keeping the kids occupied this school holidays without constantly shelling out dollar after dollar for entertainment can be difficult.  

Matching the energy and momentum of kids during the holidays will either be joyous or quickly fall into torturous organisational mayhem with parents constantly juggling home and work to manage young children. For some families it can be an expensive entertainment quest they can well do without.

Some of the best places to find low cost activities for young kids during the holiday season are your local Public Library, Community Centre and Community Gardens. From Lego construction and fun craft activities to gaming and learning new tech. There are a host of school holiday programs to keep the kids minds engaged or at the very least amused. 

Public libraries with their image of the thin-lipped librarian with strict code of quiet and diligence have transformed with the push to bring the libraries back to the public eye and use. Many sceptics predicted the library with its printed collection as going the same way as an aging postal service that fails to keep pace with technology or new enterprise. Some of the big libraries and centres have met this challenge by exploring how and what people want or use and giving them more of what they want. Most modern libraries have made the transition and you can find a wide range of people on the computer terminals researching, or after school kids just gaming amongst an around the clock host of activities. More importantly a library card comes with home access to professional online tutorials, ebooks, video and music downloads - all part of every library throughout the state. During the holidays they have an enormous range of activities for young minds.

The huge increase in Community Gardens has provided a great meeting place whilst providing entertainment for kids. In SA there were around 40 in 2012 and that number has grown to hundreds. These gardens have taken over as a modern day kids club where stay at home mums and dads can gather and collectively keep the kids occupied whilst having a grown up chat and literally watch the grass or veggies grow. Sometimes a collective of parents is just what you need to ease the constant guardianship of being a watchful modern super parent. Who knows the kids might even find a worm or two to eat and you can watch and debate if that’s OK or not. 

Community Centres offer a wide range of activities for youth or slightly older children as well as adult education, physical fitness, community meals or well-being and self-development programs. Some of the larger centres in the North and South have such a myriad of clubs and activities associated and can even offer employment assistance and access to the wider service agencies that provide such things as emergency relief, financial counselling or cost of living assistance. These super centres have many activities each day over the holidays and whilst the kids are busy you can take part in something yourself.

So why not consider taking the kids down to the local community centre or library, or if the weather is good and you’re feeling like an afternoon in the garden check out what’s growing around your local area. Already the school activity programs are filling up fast and for the more popular events it’s worth jumping online straight away and booking. It could be a low cost way of not only engaging the kids or sparking an interest but expanding your own brain as well.

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What is EEPS and who can it help?

The throes of winter has many South Australians throwing on an extra blanket or two and bracing themselves for the expected bite from the costs of heating over the next few months. The last few years of higher energy prices has raised our anxiety of heating and cooling costs and is now the single most feared expense in the family's annual budget.

South Australians in particular are well adept at power consumption reduction around the house but there is only so much you can do regarding heating and power consumption to keep your family out of the cold. Many of us are facing the real prospect of disconnection because we simply do not have the money to pay. Even those with some financial capacity and or budgeting strategies can find paying the kilowatt costs hard. For those who do not have the ability to pay it can be a pretty cold shower of devastating reality. Who can they turn to for help?

Many struggling families have utilised the SA Government's Emergency Electricity Payment Scheme but Financial Counsellors are still finding some people unsure of what they are entitled to in regards to assistance or the types of assistance available. EEPS can be accessed if you are experiencing significant financial difficulties and have had your electricity disconnected or are at risk of disconnection. Payments of up to $400 for low-income households and applicants are available for an emergency electricity payment once every three years. The Scheme is only accessible through the assistance of financial counsellors, who will assess your financial situation before lodging an application. If you're in financial hardship and unsure about where you stand regarding access to assistance please ring the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539. The Helpline can help you understand the assistance available to you or provide an appointment to see a financial counsellor if needed.

The SA Government is one of the more generous of the states and territories regarding this emergency assistance. It is truly aimed at those in most need and under threat of disconnection but with access to the scheme only every three years if you qualify for the scheme one year you will need to consider major changes to manage the subsequent years between. Accessing a Financial Counsellor early may also help to stop you sinking into more debt.

There are other concessions for a range of circumstance such as Medical Heating and Cooling, Energy Bill Concessions, Energy Bill concessions for Asylum seekers and Cost of Living concessions. These can be accessed through contacting the Concessions Hotline on 1800 307 758 or go to https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/care-and-support/financial-support/concessions

Financial Counselling is free, confidential and independent. The National Debt Helpline is a not-for-profit, community based service that is available to people in Australia experiencing financial difficulty. South Australians ringing the national helpline will be transferred to a financial counsellor who knows and lives in South Australia, and is as local to the caller as possible. If you require assistance from a financial counsellor please contact the National Debt Help Line 1800 007 007 (Mon to Thurs: 9.30am–8pm and Friday: 9.30am-4.30pm) or go to the Affordable SA App or visit the Affordable SA website to see more information and the services available in South Australia that can be of assistance.

You can find more information on how to apply for EEPS call the Concessions Hotline or visit the sa.gov.au website or follow the links below.

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The Cost of Electricity in South Australia

According to consumer review and comparison site, Canstar, in November 2018 South Australia had the highest electricity prices in Australia at 42.88c/kWh, compared to New South Wales (33.12c/kWh), Victoria (28.25c/kWh) and Queensland (27.62c/kWh)[1](#_ftn1). The financial strain that the cost of electricity is putting on South Australian households is unfortunately too apparent for our Financial Counsellors.

One Financial Counsellor commented that she had an elderly client who confined herself to her bedroom with just an electric blanket for warmth, out of fear that if anything else was turned on she would not be able to afford her next electricity bill. Similarly, another Financial Counsellor commented that she had a client who was struggling to pay back a large outstanding electricity bill because her partner, who had recently passed away, relied heavily on electricity for medical reasons in the final months of his life. Therefore, not only did she have to manage the household budget with one less income but she had to repeatedly negotiate with the electricity provider to pay off the outstanding bill.

Unfortunately, these two stories are not isolated incidences; we hear hundreds of stories each month about the strain that the cost of electricity is having on South Australian households. Fortunately, the South Australian Government does provide financial relief through an Emergency Electricity Payment Scheme Grant (EEPS). However this $400 payment, which is only available to clients every three years, provides temporary relief for households feeling the pinch of the rising cost of electricity.

Although we cannot influence how much Energy Retailers charge South Australian households for Electricity, we can educate our clients to take the steps to manage their electricity consumption.

· We check with the client that they are receiving South Australian Government Concessions

· We check with the Energy Retailer that the client is receiving the best available deal/discount

· Through the Energy Retailer, we find out the client’s fortnightly electricity usage as a dollar amount to see how it fits within the client’s budget. If their fortnightly usage is high, we provide information to the client about accessing a Home Energy Toolkit from their local public library and/or contacting a free external Home Energy Audit Service to reduce their electricity consumption.

· We check with the client’s Energy Retailer if they are able to support the client through an incentive plan, whereby the Energy Retailer matches every one or two payments made by the client to assist them out of hardship.

Ultimately, we endeavour to empower our clients to take the steps to be in control of their electricity consumption. We emphasise to our clients that although the Energy Retailers dictate the price, the majority of what the client pays for is ultimately up to them and the electricity that they consume.

[1](#_ftnref1) Brendon O’Neill 2019, Average electricity costs per kWh, Canstar, viewed 4 June 2019,

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