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Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS)

The Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) assists Western Australian utility customers who are in financial hardship and are unable to pay their utility bills. The purpose of HUGS is to assist customers in financial hardship with their connection to essential services.

A key principle of HUGS is that customers and utility providers share responsibility for managing situations of initial payment difficulty and financial hardship. They must work together to develop manageable payment arrangements, which will provide the greatest assistance to customers, with the expressed purpose of avoiding disconnection and preventing debt escalation.

Customers may be eligible for financial assistance through HUGS where payment arrangements and other hardship strategies have been exhausted. Financial assistance through HUGS will be targeted towards Western Australians most in need.

 

Utility Provider Contact Details

Please contact your relevant utility provider to discuss your options to stay connected.

  • AGL: 1300 659 925 
  • Alinta Energy: 13 13 58 
  • Aqwest: (08) 9780 9500 
  • Busselton Water (08) 9781 0500 
  • Esperance Gas Distribution Company: (08) 9072 1422 
  • Horizon Power: 1800 267 926 
  • Kleenheat: 13 21 80  
  • Origin: 13 24 61 
  • Simply Energy: 13 88 08
  • Synergy: 13 13 53 
  • Water Corporation: 13 13 85 

If you require further assistance please contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Contacts

Name: Department of Communities
Phone: Please contact your relevant utility provider

How to Apply

 

Step 1: Utility Provider Assessment

All applications are initiated through your utility provider, so it is best to call them as soon as you are experiencing financial hardship to discuss your options.

As part of your application, your utility provider will need to work with you to achieve the following:

  • assessing whether you are experiencing payment difficulties or in a state of financial hardship
  • sign you up to the Utility's hardship program if applicable
  • set up a payment arrangement of at least 180 days.

If you have complied with the payment arrangement after 180 days and have avoided a disconnection or restriction notice and/or disconnection, you may request your utility provider to commence the HUGS application process on your behalf.

What if I am currently disconnected?

If you are currently disconnected from your utility supply, contact your utility provider to discuss your options.  You may still be eligible for HUGS under certain circumstances.  If you meet the required eligibility for disconnected customers, in order for a HUGS application to proceed, you will be required to:

  • pay the minimum amount required to reconnect your property (usually 50% of the outstanding amount); and
  • enter into a future payment arrangement for the outstanding debt.

The HUGS grant may be used to assist you to pay the minimum upfront payment required from your utility provider.

Step 2: HUGS Service Centre Assessment

Following assessment by your utility provider, compliance with utility financial hardship policies and HUGS eligibility requirements, you will be referred to the HUGS Service Centre. 

The HUGS Service Centre is an independent call centre service, responsible for making a recommendation about your eligibility for a HUGS grant.

The HUGS Service Centre staff will undertake a comprehensive assessment of your needs, offer additional supports and advise whether you will be recommended for a HUGS grant.

If you have a received a HUGS grant in the previous three financial year periods, you will be required to meet additional eligibility requirements as part of your assessment with the HUGS Service Centre.

Step 3: Final Approval

The HUGS Service Centre submits a recommendation to the Department of Communities for all HUGS applications. Following a final assessment and review of your application, the Department of Communities will either approve or decline your HUGS application.

The outcome of your application will be emailed directly to the utility provider that initiated the application and the HUGS Service Centre. The HUGS Service Centre will contact you if your application is declined.

Eligibility

You may be eligible if your utility provider assesses you as being in the following situation:

  • you contact your utility provider to discuss your outstanding debt and you are assessed by your utility provider as being in financial hardship and not in payment difficulty;
  • you have exhausted all your options with the utility provider and enter into a payment arrangement for at least 180 days to address the outstanding debt; and
  • after completion of the payment arrangement, if your outstanding bill is still more than $300.

How much help can I apply for?

If you live south of the 26th parallel (south of Denham), you are eligible for up to $580 per financial year.

If you live north of the 26th parallel (north of and including Denham), you are eligible for up to $960 per financial year.

The amount of financial assistance through a HUGS grant must not exceed 85% of the amount outstanding on your utility account.

If you have complied with a 180-day payment arrangement with your utility provider, your utility provider has the option to recommend an additional HUGS amount of up to $50 if the equivalent amount is waived from your outstanding debt. This can only be recommended at the discretion of the utility providers and is only available once per household per financial year. 

Customers who have received disconnection warnings or are disconnected are not eligible, and the additional amount cannot put your account balance into credit.

When I am not eligible to apply for HUGS?

Not all residential customers are eligible for HUGS, you may not be eligible if:

  • You do not reside at the supply address;

  • You have used all your grant limit for the financial year;
  • You are assessed as not being in financial hardship;
  • You are a customer with bottled gas;
  • For Water Corporation, Busselton Water and Aquest customers, HUGS is only available for the owner-occupiers of residential properties; or
  • You live in an Aboriginal community and have your water managed by the Water Corporation.

Transfer debt that is older than 12 months is not eligible from the date of the HUGS application. For example, debt that has been transferred when you moved residential address, or where you have legally consented to accepted debt from another account holder onto your account. 

What happens if my HUGS application is declined?

If your HUGS application is declined, you will be notified by the HUGS Service Centre, and requested to contact your utility provider to manage your outstanding amount through the utility provider financial hardship policies.

If you would like to request a review of the decision to decline your application, it must be made in writing within four weeks from the date of the notification of that decision from the Department of Communities to the HUGS Service Centre and utility provider.

Applications for review can be made by customers, utility providers or the HUGS Service Centre and should be lodged to:

Manager Concessions

Department of Communities

Locked Bag 3

Perth BC 6849 

or via email – hugs@communities.wa.gov.au.

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