Powerless to pay the bills: food and electricity costs proving too much

BIG ISSUE: St Vincent de Paul diocesan executive officer  Frank Moes says after the charity’s clients pay their bills, there is little money left over for food.

BIG ISSUE: St Vincent de Paul diocesan executive officer Frank Moes says after the charity’s clients pay their bills, there is little money left over for food.

PEOPLE struggling to pay their energy bills are increasingly being forced to relying on charities to put food on the table.

St Vincent de Paul diocesan executive officer Frank Moes says 90 percent of the charity’s clients receive Centrelink payments that don’t adequately cover the cost of living.

“It’s really not enough money to participate in society,” he said.

Mr Moes said after the charity’s clients paid their bills, often there was little money left over for food.

“Big electricity bills are definitely a huge issue for people, but most of the money we spend on helping people is spent on food,” Mr Moes said.

“Fruit and vegetables are reasonably pricey and meat is very expensive.”

Mr Moes said during the three-month period from June to August last year the Orange branch of St Vincent de Paul, which covers Orange and the small towns in close proximity, spent $56,000 on assisting clients.

“Of that $56,000, $46,000 was spent on food,” Mr Moes said.

“We spend an enormous amount of money on food. Often people are able to cover all of their bills but they just can’t pay for their food.”

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St Vincent de Paul offers clients food parcels containing a range of essential items that have been approved by a nutritionist.

Mr Moes said the cost of food was often the only thing clients felt had some flexibility.

“There are very little things you can negotiate with, you can’t ask the RTA to negotiate the cost of registering your car, and maybe people think it’s easier to pay their bills and try and get food assistance.”

St Vincent de Paul conference member Marie Wilkins, who is in regular contact with the charity’s clients, said an increasing number of elderly people required the charity’s services.

“We’re seeing more of them [the elderly] since the cost of electricity and the general cost of living has gone up,” Mrs Wilkins said.

“They often don’t like coming in and feel embarrassed but they just can’t make ends meet.”

As the cold weather takes hold Mrs Wilkins expects more people from all walks of life to be forced to turn to the charity for help.

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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