St Vincent de Paul says a move away from paper vouchers to a more secure digital platform will make life more secure for clients.
Executive officer of VInnies Lismore Central Council Michael Trimbrell said the upgraded energy accounts payment assistance scheme will also be easier for the volunteers working with them.
“St Vincent de Paul Society NSW is a major provider of the EAPA scheme and works to maximise its benefits to entitled householders facing problems with rising electricity and gas bills,” Mr Timbrell said.
“EAPA converted to a digital platform from July 1 this year, enabling payments to approved clients to be made automatically to their energy bills. In the past, people were issued with paper vouchers that needed to be filled in for presentation at a point of payment such as a post office
“When fully bedded down, the new digital arrangements will be a much more practical way of providing this essential support to people struggling with today’s high energy costs.
When fully bedded down, the new digital arrangements will be a much more practical way of providing this essential support to people struggling with today’s high energy costs.Vinnes' Michael Trimbrell
“Our regional community faces an increasing challenge to pay their household energy bills. In 2016-17, the Vinnies Lismore Central Council that spans Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie was allocated EAPA vouchers totalling $564,800. This assisted 1374 people to manage their energy bills and remain connected."
Mr Trimbrell said the EAPA allocation for the upcoming year was $583,200.
This support is vital at a time when statewide studies show a 90 per cent rise in electricity disconnections from 2015-16 because of bill hardship. Gas prices are also very high, he said.
“This is a massive problem, and the Society remains committed to working in partnership with the Department of Energy to assist as much as we can. This transition to a digital platform is a significant development.
“Vinnies volunteers are accustomed to working closely with local people on a range of essential support services. They are focused on getting a good grip on the new digital process in order to provide the best advice and help,” Mr Timbrell said.
The executive officer said winter is creating a rapid increase in the number of requests for support as more people struggle to pay their utility bills.
The sad reality is that low-income earners have high energy costs because their homes tend to be less well insulated, and their heaters are more energy hungry, he added.
The allocations are:
- Richmond Regional Council was allocated - $86,000 - 430 vouchers
- Tweed/Byron Council was allocated $125,000 - 625 vouchers
- Hastings Regional Council was allocated $86,500 - 430 vouchers
- Clarence Regional Council was allocated - $78,500 - 390 vouchers
- Orara Regional Council was allocated $188,800 - 940 vouchers
The total allocation is $564,800 in 2815 vouchers and will assist 1374 clients.