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Hidden energy poverty: case studies research project

Report for Victorian Council of Social Service
Household finance Cost and standard of living Energy consumption Water Financial inclusion Victoria

Australian households have faced sharp increases in energy prices over the past decade. Household water bills have also increased. Higher numbers of households are experiencing electricity and/or gas disconnections due to non-payment of bills and joining energy retailer hardship programs to remain connected. As a result, research and energy policy has focused on energy retailer hardship practices, household experiences of hardship programs and disconnection, and ways to keep households connected. The impact of energy and water costs in households who manage to pay utility bills and remain connected is less visible. Financially constrained households may restrict energy and water use to detrimental levels and/or go without other household essentials. Based on the experience of member organisations, the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) is seeking to raise awareness of these less visible forms of energy and water hardship to facilitate energy and cross-sectorial policy which respond to the health and wellbeing impacts of high utility costs for households. VCOSS engaged the Centre for Urban Research’s Beyond Behaviour Change (BBC) team at RMIT University to interview households who may be experiencing detrimental impacts from energy and water bills despite remaining connected to supply. Ten case studies were developed from these interviews describing participants' experiences of energy and water bills, household health and comfort, and the relationship with other financial and social issues. The case studies form the main content of this short report and are intended to be read as a collection. Key themes are included at the end of the report to supplement the depth of experiences provided by the case studies and summarise the main findings from this research.

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