DCC reviews power fund

In the past year, 785 Dunedin families and individuals have been able to get on top of their power bills with support from the Dunedin City Council Consumer Electricity Fund.

The fund is up for review this year, as part of a wider review of DCC community funding.

Administered on behalf of the DCC by Anglican Family Care (AFC), the fund works with agencies across the city to help with power costs. The fund has helped about 7000 local people during the past 10 years, with the council providing a top-up of about $200,000 each year.

DCC Consumer Electricity Fund co-ordinator and budget adviser Cheryl Inwood said the fund, with careful management, had been made to last the whole year, while also helping many families.

People are able to access a one-off grant of $200, while those who have been engaged with a budgeting service for six weeks or more could access up to $350. In extreme cases, grants can be provided twice in a five-year period.

Each of the six agencies involved in distributing funds worked with their own clients, Ms Inwood said.

''The electricity fund makes a huge contribution to people who are really struggling.''

''It is good to be able to offer someone that one-off support - although it is still only just keeping the wolf from the door.''

AFC practice manager Kathy Richards said rising power costs were severely impacting on many families, with $400 bills now common and an increasing number of bills reaching $1000 or more. Some of this was due to people using the ''smooth pay'' option but not being able to pay enough regularly to stay on top of bills.

''It is a very difficult situation for a lot of people - every year it gets harder and harder.''

One of the good things about the DCC Consumer Electricity Fund was that it brought people to the agency where there was an opportunity to help them look at their budget.

DCC community adviser Paul Coffey said the review was part of a wider review of community funding.

A report was being prepared for the community and environment committee, and it was hoped that this would be ready in time for its July 23 meeting. There would be wide consultation, Mr Coffey said.

Mrs Richards hoped the council would continue to support the Electricity Fund.

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