NSW Auditor General supports NCOSS call for reform of energy rebates
NCOSS welcomes the release of the Auditor General’s performance audit of energy rebates for low income households, as yet more evidence in support of significant reform in this area.
NCOSS Deputy CEO Melanie Fernandez said that with the cost of energy increasingly pushing people beyond crisis point, it is important to ensure that the system of supports for people with low incomes actually gets to those who need it most.
“This Auditor General’s report supports the findings of our Cost of Living report, and shows that vulnerable people are not getting the support they need to make their essential energy needs affordable. We know that many families are facing bills over $4,000, and the current system of rebates leaves them with little ability to reduce their bills any further and unable to afford essential electricity,” said Ms Fernandez.
NCOSS’ main concern with the current rebate system is that it provides a fixed rebate, regardless of location, family size, quality of housing, and standard of insulation, all of which are factors that affect a household’s energy usage and bill. This was highlighted in the Auditor General’s report.
“For years NCOSS has been advocating for people to receive a rebate that is proportionate to their energy bill rather than a flat rate, as we believe this would be fairer, and would provide an equal proportion of assistance to all.
“The fixed rebate gives the same support to a single person with an annual bill of $1200 as it does to a family of six with an annual bill of $4000. The single receives a 24% rebate, where the family receives support equivalent to 7%,” said Ms Fernandez.
An effective system of supports has clear objectives informing how they are provided and that can be assessed on its outcomes. The Audit Office recommends that the Government establish measureable objectives for NSW energy assistance schemes, and that alternative support systems be evaluated as part of a reform process.
“We urge the government to reform the major energy rebates for low income households - discontinue the Family Energy Rebate and consolidate support into a Low Income Household Energy Rebate with expanded eligibility. We also recommend support of a 17.5% rebate of eligible people’s bills,” said Ms Fernandez.
NCOSS would also like to see the NSW Government build upon its recent announcement which recognised the importance of making essential energy services affordable for all of our community. We look forward to seeing a detailed response to the Auditor General’s report, and to working with the Government to implement the reforms we urgently need.
“The NSW Government has shown that it can invest in physical infrastructure. Now we need an investment in low income and vulnerable households across the state. We need a better, more equitable, long-term way of supporting people and families doing it tough,” said Ms Fernandez.
Media contact: Stephanie Baker, 0416 622 606