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“This isn’t living, it’s surviving” – 64% of Australia’s most vulnerable can’t afford utility bills as cost-of-living crisis worsens, Salvation Army research shows

The Salvation Army 2 mins read

27 June 2023


“This isn’t living, it’s surviving”

64% of Australia’s most vulnerable can’t afford utility bills as cost-of-living crisis worsens, Salvation Army research shows


With the cost-of-living crisis showing no signs of letting up soon, and utility bills set to soar even further, The Salvation Army is seeing the country’s most vulnerable presenting with shocking circumstances. Over 6 in 10 (64%) could not afford to pay their utility bills on time due to a shortage of money; more than six times higher than the national average.


“This isn’t living, it’s surviving. I’m living week-to-week and getting deeper into debt. I 
feel like life is an elastic band that I keep stretching, but I'm just waiting for it to snap, 
causing everything to come crashing down,” said a 36-year-old who accessed the Salvos’ services.


With winter now here, the Salvos’ survey of more than 1,700 community members who accessed support from The Salvation Army illustrates the extreme challenges they are facing. Over 5 in 10 (51%) respondents were on hardship plans with their energy provider, almost three-quarters (74%) were cutting back on using heating, and 70% had reduced the use of lights in their homes.


Further, 6 in 10 were taking shorter or fewer showers, 34% went to bed early to keep warm and 36% stopped having guests over to save on energy bills.


“It is now more expensive to be poor in this country,” says The Salvation Army’s Major David Collinson. “Our community members are making the most devastating decisions. Having to decide whether to put the heating on to stay warm in winter can literally be the difference between life and death.”


A mother of three, 34, who accessed the Salvos for support said, “I turn off the hot water and electricity at night. I use the barbecue for cooking and organise the kids' clothes to minimise the use of the washing machine. We only flush the toilet when necessary. We limit showers to a maximum of three minutes. Instead of using public transport, we walk or ride bikes everywhere.”

The research findings come as The Salvation Army’s annual Red Shield Appeal aims to raise $37 million by June 30 to ensure it can continue providing support to thousands of Aussies doing it tough every week.

“The Salvation Army has a network of over 2,000 centres and services around the country providing critical support, but this isn’t possible without the generosity of the Australian public,” Major Collinson said. “Your support, especially at tax time, makes a tangible difference. Almost 90% of those surveyed said they would not have coped financially if it wasn’t for the support of the Salvos. So please, if you can, give generously to the Red Shield Appeal.”

Each year, through The Salvation Army’s nationwide network of services, the Salvos provide: *

  • Assistance to one person every 17 seconds
  • More than 1.86 million sessions of care to people in need
  • Over 1 million bed nights to those who need accommodation
  • More than 1.52 million meals to people who accessed our homelessness services.


To make a tax-deductible donation to The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal, or if you need support from the Salvos, visit or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58).


For more information, please contact The Salvation Army’s Media Relations Department on (02) 94663143 *The Salvation Army Australia Annual Report 2021-22


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