The cost-of-living crisis is hitting West Australians hard ahead of Christmas, with calls to Anglicare WA for food support and emergency relief increasing 33% in December - the most daily calls this year.
The Emergency Relief and Food Access Service is a state-wide toll-free phone line started by Anglicare WA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to support people facing financial hardship by connecting them with local emergency relief providers for food hampers or vouchers, bill payment support and more.
So far in December, the Service is reporting a significant spike in demand in the lead up to the festive period. In the previous two weeks, the call centre has received nearly 2,300 calls, or more than 160 per day, up from 120 per day in November. An increase of 33% from the same time last month, and a rise of 40% since this time last year.
Anglicare WA CEO Mark Glasson said callers were seeking help with food hampers and gifts for children, as well as assistance to pay bills and cover transport costs.
“The rising demand for emergency relief is a clear sign of just how many West Australians are doing it tough this Christmas” Mr Glasson said.
“We’re hearing from more and more people who are accessing support for the first time in their lives. One in 10 callers in December had jobs but still couldn’t make ends meet: that’s the highest proportion of employed callers this year. The data shows just how hard it’s getting for people to keep their heads above water”.
Not only is the Emergency Relief and Food Access Service seeing a rise in demand, said Mr Glasson, but an increasing number of people are also turning to Anglicare WA local services and op-shops for help.
“People are visiting our stores in the hope of accessing some help – and retail staff are doing what they can to connect customers with Emergency Relief and food support.”
While the lead up to Christmas has been particularly tough, Mr Glasson said the organisation was gearing up for demand to spike even further in the new year.
“There is a genuine concern personal debt levels will escalate in 2023. Family budgets are already thin, yet we suspect many households are ignoring their financial position to cover Christmas costs. I anticipate the new year will provide some shocks to families as the credit card bills arrive, along with the usual household bills and costs.
Mr Glasson urged anyone finding themselves struggling financially in the new year to reach out for help early.
“Please don’t resort to by-now-pay-later schemes, payday lenders, or taking out new credit cards to pay off the old. Free help is available to anyone in debt through financial counselling or financial wellbeing services, and they’re available right across Perth and WA.”