Dip in number using consumer electricity fund

Fewer residents are approaching budget advisers for a share of a Dunedin City Council fund to help those struggling to pay their electricity bill.

Figures released to The Star under the Official Information Act reveal almost 600 Dunedin residents applied for a share of $120,000 from the Dunedin City Council’s consumer electricity fund for the year ending June 30.

The fund was set up in 1998 to help Dunedin residents with a grant towards their electricity bill.

In the past financial year, fewer people applied and a smaller amount of money was given than in the four previous financial years.

Dunedin had its coldest and wettest July in the past five years.

Niwa climate scientist Nava Fedaeff said the Niwa weather station in Musselburgh in July recorded a mean temperature of 6.1degC and 156.6mm of rain.

Council senior community adviser Paul Coffey said Dunedin residents could apply for a grant from the fund by appointment only and the grant was dependent on eligibility.

To qualify for a grant, applicants must meet staff assessment from one of four budget advisers in Dunedin – Family Works at Presbyterian Support Services, the Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services or Dunedin Budget Advisory Service.

Advisory service executive officer Andrew Henderson said if someone was eligible they were given $200 towards their bill.

If they agreed to engage with a budgeting service, they were given $150 after six weeks of engagement.

“Most take the $200 and we never see them again, but some carry on,” Mr Henderson said.

Of those given grants, 69% were beneficiaries, about 20% were working and the rest included students and Accident Compensation Corporation claimants.

He believed fewer people were applying for the grant because a person could access the fund once in a five-year period, or twice in exceptional circumstances.

Consequently, if more people were applying in earlier years, fewer could apply later.

Additionally, the closure in the past year of two budgeting services in Dunedin – Anglican Family Care and Corpac Trust – would have affected the number of people being told the fund existed.

The number of applicants might have also dropped because electricity retailers were offering different ways to manage a power bill, such as “pay-as-you-go”, weekly billing, an hour of free power or paying the spot price.

“There are all these different ways of doing it now, which in the past there wasn’t.”

For the financial year from July 1, the fund would have $166,200 available.

SHAWN.MCAVINUE @thestar.co.nz

 

The numbers

Dunedin City Council consumer electricity fund:
Year from July-June; Applicants; Total grants
2016  594   $120,000
2015  666 $134,000
2014  686 $138,000
2013 784  $164,000
2012 722 $153,000

 

 

 

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