The essential services portfolio covers utilities – electricity, gas, and water- as well as housing and transport issues. WACOSS advocates on behalf of vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers on a range of issues related to increasing tariffs, access to concessions, financial hardship etc.
For low income Western Australians the cost of accessing essential services consume a disproportionately high percentage of their income. As a result they often find paying utility bills difficult and often end up in arrears to service providers. This may result in a restriction of supply or disconnection. The consequences of these outcomes have been shown to include: deterioration in health, poor diet, and social exclusion.
WACOSS essential services policy is guided by the assertion that services such as gas, electricity, and water, are essential to the maintenance of what is considered to be an acceptable minimum standard of living within Western Australian society. Access to these services is the right of all Western Australians, regardless of a household’s capacity to pay.
WACOSS advocates for smoother pricing glide paths and tariff and concession reviews to assist customers manage increasing utility costs.
WACOSS continues to build strong working relationships with utility retailers, often providing comment and input into their internal policy documents such as financial hardship policies.
Our essential services policy staff also maintain engagement in State Government assistance programs such as the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme, providing ongoing input into the operation of these schemes through WACOSS representation on relevant steering committees.
WACOSS represents consumers and community service providers in consultation processes and advisory committees undertaken by the regulation (The Economic Regulation Authority) and makes submissions highlighting the interests of low income households and the wider WA community to regulatory reviews.
WACOSS also continues to play an ongoing role on the Housing Advisory Roundtable (HART) together with the housing peaks.