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.
HomeStart is a low deposit lender owned by the SA Government and has been in operation for around 30 years, helping around 71000 people get into home ownership.
John Oliver, CEO of HomeStart, took off the jacket and tie to take Affordable SA behind the scenes and talk about the process and best ways of preparing your finances as well as the information required to apply for a home loan.
John says that "Many people assume they are not eligible for a home loan when in fact they are". HomeStart lends to people from all backgrounds, single parents with kids, couples and more mature people. Around 40% of HomeStart's customers are on Centrelink payments.
HomeStart's mission is to make home ownership a reality for more people in more ways. They also have a strong focus in helping regional home buyers and anybody from anywhere in South Australia can approach homeStart for a home loan.
Watch the interview with John to find out all you need to know to get started with owning your own home sooner.
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)(#_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.
(#_ftnref1) Brendon O’Neill 2019, Average electricity costs per kWh, Canstar, viewed 4 June 2019,
The Adelaide Hills region of Mount Barker has boasted some of the largest population increases in the state over the last few years. This explosion of population creates a whole lot of issues regarding the facilities and new services needed to keep pace with this ever expanding suburban sprawl. Like many regions that are on the fringes of Adelaide, the associated social support services that provide for people in need and in financial stress become stretched to the limit and facilities as well as new ideas are needed to match the growth of the town and to assist people to be able to help themselves.
Over the last few years the local Mount Barker community and Church groups have been making available more basic support services to cater for the growing number of people struggling with cost of living issues. Emergency Relief and Free Fresh Food Markets are regularly available through the Salvation Army in Fletcher street with many other forms of assistance such as meals and basic provisions coming from the Uniting, Baptist and Anglican Churches as well as the local Community Centre. These Church groups extend a welcoming and non judgmental hand of help to their community.
There are Government funded services and programs to help those experiencing homelessness in Mount Barker but despite the previous growth in private housing there is little or no homeless shelters available in the area. The lack of basic facilities such as showers and toilet facilities makes it even harder for people needing to sleep rough.
One Voice, the blue mobile shower and toilet van which can be seen throughout Adelaide has now taken the drive up the hill to bring their service to those in need. One Voice in partnership with the Church Groups in Mount Barker will help to provide a regular connection point for the mobile toilet and shower facility. You can find the Mount Barker times and dates for the van in the Affordable SA App and website linked below.
These showers should be considered just a start to providing more of the basics for those experiencing homelessness as there is a lot more to do regarding accessing a safe place to sleep for those in a vulnerable position in our Hills and beyond.