“For some people $200 isn’t going to make them or break them … but it can really make a meaningful difference.” she said.
“Research that often low income households are paying a higher percentage of income on energy bills, not because they’re being reckless with their energy, it’s because they’re on a bad deal .. and may have a barriers in the way of negotiating a better deal themselves.”
In a pilot program run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence’ last year, one pensioner said a $200 saving was going to mean she had an extra $16 a month and could have a rare lunch out with friends.
As part of the new measures, energy companies will now be required to offer help to small businesses experiencing financial stress.
The ESC will conduct tariff checks for residential customers receiving payment assistance, also assisting customers to obtain $1300 utility relief grants over the phone.
A consortium including the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Australian Energy Foundation and Uniting Vic will roll out a tailored Energy Assistance and Brokerage Program to help consumers get the best deal. Webinar, online conferencing, will be delivered by the Consumer Policy Research Centre.
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the financial counselling services would ensure people struggling with energy bills got the help they needed.
“We know that staying at home is putting more pressure on household bills,” she said. “If you’re doing it tough, we want you to know that there is one-on-one support available.”
Financial counselling is available in languages including Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi and Vietnamese.
For support call 1800 830 029. Live webinars to help households manage their energy costs can be accessed at energyinfohub.org.au
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org