Western Australians in financial hardship are set to benefit from a $24million State Government relief package that will reduce their risk of having essential utilities disconnected and provide them with free financial counselling.
Child Protection Minister Sue Ellery said the package was a major support net for the increasing number of individuals and families who were finding themselves at the wrong end of the State’s economic boom.
“The Government is introducing a Hardship Utilities Grants Scheme to help people pay their overdue utility bills before disconnection, and will provide these people with free financial advice to reduce the future likelihood of disconnection,” Ms Ellery said.
“We will also be providing them with a free home energy audit and offering a range of energy efficiency resources to reduce their power bills.”
The Minister said $8.9million of the package would boost the 54 financial counselling services throughout WA, with an almost 50 per cent across the board increase.
Regions with a high level of need, such as the Kimberley and Esperance, would benefit from increases of up to 169 per cent.
“The boost will see annual funding for metropolitan services up 40 per cent to $95,000, regional services up 54 per cent to up to $100,000, and remote areas up 60 per cent to up to $110,000,” Ms Ellery said.
“The extra funding will allow many part-time services to operate full-time, providing assistance to even more people in crisis.”
WA Financial Counselling Association president Robert Evans said the new funding was recognition of the important contribution financial counsellors made to the community.
“It will greatly improve service provision and conditions for financial counsellors and will advance the profile of financial counselling as a recognised profession in the industry,” Mr Evans said.
“This, together with the Hardship Utilities Grants Scheme, will provide welcome relief to consumers experiencing financial hardship.”
Ms Ellery said financial counsellors would facilitate the $6.9million grants scheme, in which the Department for Child Protection would pay outstanding utility payments to service providers on behalf of clients who were assessed to be in real financial crisis.
Initially the scheme would apply only to electricity bills. However, it would eventually extend to other essential services.
The remaining $8.6million of the package would go towards proving people in financial hardship with home energy audits by the Office of Energy, as well as insulation rebates, free compact fluorescent lights, low-flow shower heads and taps and weather proofing of their homes.
The Minister said the generous package demonstrated that helping disadvantaged people and families in crisis was a top priority of the Carpenter Government.
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