New figures from the Salvation Army show cost of living pressures are hurting those doing it tough the most, with more than half of those surveyed unable to pay their bills on time.
The survey of more than 1700 people who accessed the Salvos’ services show 64 per cent have been unable to pay their utility bills due to a lack of funds.
Half of the respondents are on hardship payment plans with their energy providers, 74 per cent are cutting down on heating, and 70 per cent are limiting their use of lights at home.
And despite the chill of winter, 34 per cent are going to bed early to stay warm, and 36 per cent are no longer having friends over to save cash.
“I turn off the hot water and electricity at night,” says a 34-year-old mother of three who accesses the Salvos’ services. “I use the barbecue for cooking and organise the kids’ clothes to minimise the use of the washing machine.
“We only flush the toilet when necessary. We limit showers to a maximum of three minutes. Instead of using public transport, we walk or ride bikes everywhere.”
“This isn’t living, it’s surviving,” said another Salvation Army beneficiary, aged 36.
“I’m living week-to-week and getting deeper into debt. I feel like life is an elastic band that I keep stretching, but I‘m just waiting for it to snap, causing everything to come crashing down.”
The survey coincides with the charity’s end-of-financial-year Red Shield Appeal, as it tries to raise $37m by Friday to support vulnerable people in the coldest months.
“It is now more expensive to be poor in this country,” Salvation Army Major David Collinson said. “Our community members are making the most devastating decisions.
“Having to decide whether to put the heating on to stay warm in winter can literally be the difference between life and death.”
To make a tax-deductible donation to The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal, or if you need support from the Salvos, visit salvationarmy.org.au or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58).
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