Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall, left, tests out the new EAPA Voucher scheme with Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin and Armidale Neighbourhood Centre Manager Robbie Passmore.
Monday, 24 July 2017
DOZENS of families in the Northern Tablelands have been getting ahead on their energy bills thanks to a new scheme that provides crisis support virtually instantly over the phone.
Since July 1, the NSW Government’s Energy Accounts Payments Assistance (EAPA) vouchers have been issued digitally, meaning at-risk families can receive $50 towards an energy bill quickly and with minimal stress.
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall and Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin today visited the Armidale Neighbourhood Centre to see the results of the changeover.
Mr Marshall said the new scheme minimised stress for locals at breaking point.
“These vouchers are now issued instantly, meaning energy customers can be assured in moments that their energy won’t be cut off,” Mr Marshall said.
“We heard that the new scheme is working effectively, saving time and petrol that would be spent driving around the region. For people at crisis point, every dollar counts – and this makes staying connected significantly less stressful.
“Additionally, the move to digital vouchers has freed up volunteers’ time, helping community organisations spend less time on paperwork and more helping vulnerable people in our region.”
Mr Harwin said last year the NSW Government helped more than 4,000 customers in the region at risk of disconnection from essential energy services.
“Unfortunately, some households are on the brink of having their basic energy and gas needs cut off because they can’t pay their bill,” Mr Harwin said.
“We’ve recently improved the EAPA system by switching from paper to digital vouchers and the emergency payments will now be made faster to energy retailers.
“Last year, nearly $200,000 worth of vouchers were issued to 900 customers in Armidale. Across the New England North West region, around $860,000 worth of vouchers were provided.”
Armidale Neighbourhood Centre Manager Robbie Passmore said her volunteers provide up to five vouchers a day – with the new system proving more efficient.
“The assessment can be administered over the phone, and we can apply the EAPA vouchers in a very quick turnaround – that’s a bonus,” Ms Passmore said.
“It’s such an efficient system, not just for community organisations that administer the scheme, but also for clients – because when they come to us they’re juggling a lot of bills, but they’re under a lot of stress,”
“We drop everything, particularly if they have children, because given the state of Armidale winters heating is a fundamental right. When they leave, the weight is off their shoulders, even if only for a day.”
EAPA Voucher Providers in the Northern Tablelands
Armidale Neighbourhood Centre 129 Rusden St 6772 4373
Salvation Army 100 Beardy St 1300 371 288
St Vincent de Paul 162 Rusden St 6772 8601
(c/a Gwydir Shire Council) 20 Maitland St 1300 371 288
Glen Innes Community Centre 268 Grey St 6732 1682
Salvation Army 180 Bourke St 6732 2542
Inverell Home Support Program 48 Oliver St 6721 3115
Life Foundations 18 Vivian St 6721 0561
Salvation Army 45 Otho St 1300 371 288
St Vincent de Paul n/a 6732 1909
Salvation Army 114 Anne St 1300 371 288