8 December 2023

As households struggle to pay energy bills, this church is helping families stay warm

One-hundred-and-sixteen families received hampers with knitted cold weather attire. Picture: Dale Sosbey

Maya Pilbrow

17 June 2023

Longbeach Anglican parish is helping hundreds of people stay warm this winter as energy prices skyrocket.

The parish has just completed this year’s Winter Warmer program, an initiative that delivers warm weather clothes and supplies to vulnerable families in Melbourne’s south-east.

Parishioner Dale Sosbey is one of the original team behind the program, which started in 2011.

She said the program initially developed after she and some other women from Longbeach noticed people in the community struggling to supply what their families needed for winter.

The Winter Warmer team coordinates with local schools to identify vulnerable families who then receive a hamper with clothing and blankets, much of which is knitted by volunteers.

Mrs Sosbey said this year the church had managed to deliver hampers to 116 families.

“We started out with maybe 20 families and now we generally have around 120,” she said.

Read more: Food relief demand soars as living pressures mount

This winter will be particularly hard on Australian families trying to stay warm, with the cost-of-living crisis including rising energy costs.

Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara said rising wholesale prices for gas and electricity meant retailers were unable to absorb the increased costs, so consumers ended up paying higher prices.

An AEC spokesperson said rising wholesale energy costs were the result of many things including the war in Ukraine, fewer coal plants and a lack of gas generators to meet higher demand.

Gas prices rose 26.2 per cent over the past 12 months to the March quarter of this year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Energy Consumers Australia interim chief executive Jacqueline Crawshaw said energy costs were forecast to rise between 20 to 30 per cent across the country over the coming months.

She said 52 per cent of households were more concerned now than a year ago over being able to pay their energy bills.

Mrs Sosbey said the number of families reached through the Winter Warmer program had shot up over the last few years.

“We’ve had a lot of people knitting hats, scarves, socks, gloves. Even knitted rugs,” she said.

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