Residents struggle as high rents hit hard

POVERTY is knocking on the doors of almost half the Gladstone region's homes.

A special APN investigation found 43% - or 36,567 - of households in the Gladstone council area were unable to raise $2000 cash in a week to cover a crisis.

And 9662 of the region's 63,000 residents had cashflow problems in the past 12 months thanks to high rents and soaring utility bills.

>> Family puts money aside regardless of income

University of Adelaide figures reveal 11,487 people relied on government incomes to survive over the past two years.

St Vincent de Paul Society National Council chief Dr John Falzon said some residents were taking drastic measures to cut costs.

"We've recently seen huge increases in the costs of gas, so many of the homes we visit have people huddled together freezing in the dead winter, unable to afford heating, and people go to bed early so as to conserve electricity," Dr Falzon said.

"People are even reducing the number of times they use the stove top because they're worried about cost."

Low income support specialist Maree O'Halloran said many people in areas like Gladstone went without fresh food and medications just to pay the rent.

"What we see is a lot of debt," the National Welfare Rights Network president said.

"It certainly needs all levels of government to be looking at their policies."

The figures come on the back of national consumer advocate Choice's latest Pulse Report, which says nine out of 10 householders have higher bills compared to last year.

Choice chief Alan Kirkland said pressure was building as government actions including the repeal of the carbon tax failed to deliver.

"So far, the impact of the carbon tax repeal has failed to meet the expectations of many Australian households, despite evidence that savings are being passed on, particularly on electricity and gas bills," Mr Kirkland said.

ACCORDING TO THE EXPERT

FINANCIAL expert Miles Larby says simple solutions can make a world of difference.

"If you have a clear savings plan, you can take control of your money, instead of feeling like it controls you," the senior executive leader at the Federal Government's MoneySmart website said.

"This builds confidence and encourages good money management habits and the ability to move onto the next savings goal.

"You may think spending up on big things is why you're finding it hard to save.

"But often it's the everyday little things that end up costing more over time.

"It's easy to lose track of $5 here or $10 there." Mr Larby said putting money aside for emergencies and compiling a budget were good options.

"Another tip is to pay yourself first by having your savings deducted from your pay and paid into separate savings account with no ATM access - you don't miss what you don't see," he said.

"The trick with saving is to start small and then build on that success."

Mr Larby said credit cards could prove useful but needed to be treated with caution.

"A credit card may be a quick solution if you are struggling to make ends meet, but eventually you will have to pay that money back, with interest."

- APN NEWSDESK



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