PIAC reveals social impact of electricity disconnections

Paid workers are as likely as pensioners and the unemployed to be disconnected from electricity or other utilities, new research released by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has found.

Forty four per cent (44%) of households disconnected from electricity, gas or water in NSW last year reported their primary source of income as paid employment.

A further forty five per cent (45%) of households cut off from electricity or other utilities cited Centrelink payments as their primary income source.

PIAC’s research findings have been published in a report, Cut Off III: The Social Impact of Utility Disconnection.

‘In 2012, there was a significant increase in respondents who reported that their gas, water or electricity bill was unusually high,’ said PIAC senior policy officer, Carolyn Hodge.

‘Although most respondents owed between $300 and $1,000 prior to disconnection, almost one in four households owed more than $1,000 when they were disconnected. These debt levels are significantly higher than they were four years ago,’ Ms Hodge said.

More than a quarter of disconnected households (26%) were disconnected more than once during the year, and many respondents said they were unable to pay energy and water bills because they had to meet medical expenses.

‘Forty-five per cent (45%) of disconnected households included a person with a health condition, some of whom rely on electrical equipment such as wheelchairs,’ Ms Hodge said.

Embarrassment was the largest barrier to people seeking help to pay utility bills.

‘Many people don’t know where to go for assistance, or are unaware they can ask for energy and water vouchers or payment assistance to help them pay their bills,’ Ms Hodge said.

Cut Off III is PIAC’s third report into the social impact of electricity, gas and water disconnections. Previous reports were issued in 2005 and 2009.


Read the report’s key findings and recommendations.