Emergency relief agencies are stretched to the limit

Anglicare regional manager south Angela Hellewell told the Courier ‘many’ people in the local community were having to choose between paying their rent and putting food on the table.

‘We are seeing a cross section of people struggling to meet costs and many people coming in seeking assistance for the first time,’ she said.

‘We have three full-time financial counsellors working in the Rockingham-Kwinana area. All of our financial counselling services are booked for at least two weeks in advance.’

Ms Hellewell said more and more clients needed to apply for the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme, with an increase in referrals from Synergy.

‘Our housing support workers are seeing an increase in clients as people get behind in their rent as they try to meet their other bills,’ she said.

A housing affordability study conducted earlier this year by Anglicare found there were no affordable private rentals for people on low income or welfare payments.

Even the organisation’s Home Energy Saver Scheme, which teaches people how to try to reduce energy costs in their home, has a ‘very long waiting list’.

‘More resources are needed to help people who are struggling with the increased costs of living,’ she said. ‘More funding needs to be directed towards housing affordability strategies.’

Both Brand MHR Gary Gray and Liberal candidate for Brand Donna Gordin have previously told the Courier that they did not support an increase to Centrelink benefits like Newstart because people were not meant to live on them ‘long term’.

Ms Gordin said the Liberal Party acknowledged many people on benefits and many employed in the private sector faced hardship every day.

‘This isn’t then helped when policies like a price on carbon or border security blow-outs drive up cost-of-living pressures and taxes, making a hard situation even worse,’ she said.

‘Due to the current debt levels and out-of-control spending caused by Labor and Kevin Rudd, the Coalition has not committed to any immediate or short-term increase in Centrelink benefits.’

The Courier contacted Mr Gray for comment, but did not receive a response before deadline.