Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody says that the Victorian Government’s $3.7 million package for people having difficulty paying their energy bills is a well-timed funding boost as we head into the winter months.
“The Victorian Government is right to recognise that a wave of energy debt and other debt issues are yet to come. It’s a smart move to provide more financial counsellors to help people overcome financial difficulty as the bills start coming in,” said Mr Brody.
“Our community will be experiencing the financial repercussions of COVID 19 for a long time into the future. We’ve seen many energy businesses step up and implement thoughtful assistance, which is good news. We need to see consistent commitments across the whole industry that extend until at least the end of this year.
“Top of the list should be a public commitment to stopping energy disconnections for non-payment,” said Mr Brody.
“Many people are experiencing problem debt and reduced income for the first time and will struggle to ask for help. Others were already experiencing significant vulnerabilities before COVID 19 impacted us all and now will be doing it even tougher. Disconnecting people is unacceptable as it is a risk to people’s health, especially as the cold of winter sets in.
”We also urge the Victorian Government to increase concessions, particularly the Utility Relief Grant. More and more of us are at home and consuming more and more energy and unsustainable debt will accumulate. A robust safety net through effective concessions and relieving debt is needed more than ever.
“People who have been treated unfairly or are struggling in relation to debt should contact the National Debt Helpline service on 1800 007 007,” said Mr Brody.
Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser | Consumer Action Law Centre | 0413 299 567 | firstname.lastname@example.org