Families do it tough financially

COFFS Coast residents are doing it tough according to local charities which are experiencing an increasing demand in services.

With the burgeoning cost of basics like food and soaring electricity prices, local families are feeling the financial pressure.

The Coffs Harbour LifeHouse Care centre's assistant co-ordinator, Amanda Bishop, reported a higher demand for food and electricity vouchers in the past six to 12 months.

“We have a lot of new clients, people who have never been in this position before; things are changing and we are seeing more middle income earners,” Ms Bishop said.

“As well, we have people who were on our books eight to 10 years ago, who have recently found they’re not managing.

“They are saying, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done; I haven’t changed anything and now I can’t make ends meet’.”

Ms Bishop said February, which is normally quietening down after the Christmas period, is proving to be a busy month this year.

“There are often seasonal fluctuations which last a few months but it looks like the high demand for services is set to stay,” she said.

“I can’t see an end to it. With increasing costs of living and higher food prices, people are really feeling the crunch.

“Electricity bills have increased by 30 per cent and people are coming in with bills saying, ‘It’s never been this high’.”

The costs involved with sending kids to school can be a huge strain on the family budget and Darrin Allen from The Smith Family in Coffs Harbour said inquiries for help with educational expenses have increased tenfold.

“The Smith Family through its Learning for Life program provides scholarship payments in Semester 1 and Semester 2 of the school year to assist families purchase school uniforms, backpacks, shoes and stationery,” Mr Allen said.

“If disadvantaged kids present at school looking differently to everyone else, psychologically they may feel that they don’t belong and this may impact on their engagement at school.”

“More than 320 Coffs Harbour students are Learning for Life scholarship recipients and demand continues to outstrip availability; over the past 12 months inquiries to engage in the program have increased tenfold. Families are doing it tough.”

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