Increase costs puts demand on Otago families

For some families, even on two incomes, the challenge of meeting rental and utility costs is becoming more difficult as the cost of living increases faster than incomes.

Financial hardship doesn’t just apply to those in larger towns or cities – it can be seen right across the Otago region.

Our Family Works team in Central Otago is finding that sudden illness or injury to the main income earner is becoming the number one cause of personal financial hardship. A sudden drop in income can quickly rock financial stability and in a matter of weeks even the most astute families can find they begin to struggle to meet essential living costs.

When this happens most people focus firstly on their rent or mortgage costs, buying food and getting to work and school. Costs like heating, which for some means buying dry wood prior to winter, quickly becomes a low priority in the weekly budget.

As winter approaches families face increased power accounts. If you are unable to meet the rising utility accounts it can become difficult to catch up on missed payments.

The difference that even a small emergency payment can make to the overall well-being for an individual or a family is immense. Knowing your children are cold and there are no funds available to heat the house causes unnecessary additional stress.

In Central Otago, Family Works received a grant to manage an Emergency Heating Fund, for the benefit of those living within the geographic region. These funds are being used to assist with one-off emergency wood supplies, gas bottle refills and power payments for those who find they are struggling for various reasons.

The team in Central Otago have assisted many families who they are working with, at times alongside other community agencies, to provide access to utility payment support, so they don’t get behind in their payments.

Those who receive assistance are overwhelmed with the generosity. We have seen times when those who receive support will give back to the community in other ways, such as gardening, computer lessons or taking an elderly person to the shops.

We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to assist families and those who need it, through options such as the Emergency Heating Fund. One of the difficulties our team faces is that funding is geographically constrained. For example, the Emergency Heating Fund in Central Otago is not able to be extended to those living in the Maniototo. We face the same restrictions on the Dunedin Emergency Heating Fund which does not reach north and south Otago rural areas.

The Otago region, as you know, has very cold winters, increasing rental costs, large travel costs for medical events and other financial challenges due to the location of these services. Summer may still be lingering, but with the winter cold arriving in just a few short months we know that many across Otago will face increased financial stress.

Your generosity goes directly towards the work our Family Works team does to assist families and those in need across Otago. We hope you will be in a position to help us; we need and appreciate your support more than ever.

Your contribution to the Welfare Support Fund will make a difference to our families. Thank you!