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More seek help

Tuesday, 11th March, 2014

By Nick Gibbs

Of the 1104 people assisted by St Vincent de Paul locally in 2013, over half were new clients. 

Conference President Phil Sky and his wife Pam reported that St Vinnies had experienced significant increases in the number of new clients looking for assistance over the last 12 months.

“We are seeing a lot of new clients and have noticed a few more eviction notices,” Phil said. 

Pam agreed that rental prices and the city’s unemployment were contributing to financial strain.

According to the couple, typical rental prices have risen from between $80 and $120 per week three or four years ago to current rates of between $180 and $300. 

“If your rent is $200 a week, there’s not going to be much left,” Pam said referring to people on the Newstart allowance that contributes approximately $500 to a single person per fortnight. 

The total dollar value of assistance from St Vinnies in the region last year was $200,020.

Of that figure, government assistance contributed $103,010 to local residents struggling to pay electricity bills.

The electricity vouchers form the NSW Government’s Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme and are distributed in Broken Hill via St Vinnies.

Other areas of significant spend included accommodation assistance ($37,714) and help with utilities excluding electricity ($17,621).

Pam predicted that the heatwave in Broken Hill at the start of the year would see a jump in the number of people looking for help.

The distribution of EAPA vouchers is limited to $250 every 6 months for eligible households.

“We’ll sit them down and ask them why they can’t pay their bill,” Phil said.

The vouchers are designed to assist those who, for unforeseen circumstance, are unable to pay.

“It’s not a long term solution,” Phil said, explaining that education and financial management was the best way to prevent ongoing hardship.

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