Winter hardship tipped to bite
How are you keeping warm at home?
Social services in Marlborough are bracing themselves for an increase in the number of people needing help to get through winter.
Crossroads Marlborough convenor Yvonne Dasler said people would probably be surprised by their first power bills since winter weather set in.
Power companies increased power prices by up to 10 per cent in April, following an average 5.81 per cent ($121.15) rise for Nelson-Marlborough customers last year.
Although figures from the Social Development Ministry show the number of Marlborough people applying to Work and Income New Zealand for special needs grants is on par with the same time last year, Mrs Dasler said she had referred more people than ever to the Marlborough Community Foodbank this year.
She had been referring an average of one family a day since Christmas, a dramatic increase on previous years, she said.
"It is a worry, times are really hard.
"People are putting the heaters on to stay warm as the weather is getting colder but with power prices going up, they can't afford to eat properly.
"It's hard to believe it is the 21st century when we are seeing cost- saving measures and hardship akin to the Great Depression of the 1930s."
She is encouraging people to talk more about cost saving measures and "share the wisdom".
"The couple next door may look like they have it all, but they may have a crippling mortgage and not be eating properly – that is the main way people try to economise."
The hardship was not restricted to unemployed people and there was a lot of hidden poverty, because people did not want to admit they were struggling financially, she said.
Marlborough Community Foodbank manager David Cosgrove said the wave of people in need of food parcels continued to grow.
Ten years ago they would hand out 300 food parcels each year. Last year it was about 2000, he said.
"We are seeing more big family groups with four or five children emerging, an indicator of the tough times."
Blenheim social service Bread of Life Trust manager Val Seatter said people on minimum wage struggled the most because they were not entitled to as much help from Work and Income New Zealand as people on benefits.
Mrs Dasler said a lot of people were working fewer hours as businesses cut back because of the economy and vineyard workers were at the mercy of the weather.
"One day off because of rain is 20 per cent off their pay – quite a substantial difference to what they take home to their families," she said.
People reluctant to go Crossroads for help could get together with a group of friends to help break the ice, Mrs Dasler said.
"We all need to share the wisdom – some young people have not been through hard times and don't know the little tricks to save money.
"The more we talk about the issue, the easier it will become to deal with," she said.
SAVE COSTS AT HOME
Give up smoking.
Warm yourself, not the house.
Wear an extra layer of clothing, or get in a sleeping bag or under a blanket, go to bed earlier rather than turn on the heater.
Put an extra blanket on the bed or sleep in a beanie and bed socks for extra warmth.
Use one element on the stove by cooking one-pot dinners.
Switch your internet plan to dial-up. Plans are available for unlimited data at $10 a month.
Socialise in large groups to save on electricity and heating, such as getting together at one house to watch a DVD, play board games or have dinner.
- The Marlborough Express