People with MS and Parkinson’s Disease at risk with rising power bills

A report released this week by MS Australia has found that people with medically induced heat intolerance spend almost ten-times as much as average households to keep cool and this situation is set to worsen dramatically due to electricity price increases beginning in July.

Price increases approved by the NSW Government will see average bills rise to more than $200, but people living with medical heat or cold intolerance are likely to see a much higher increase.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s Energy + Water Consumer Advocacy Program Policy Officer Joel Pringle said, ‘There are no existing rebates that meet the specific needs of people with both low-incomes and medical heating and cooling requirements. NSW is behind other states in providing such a scheme. This report shows clearly that there is a need, and that such a rebate is affordable to Government.’

People living with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and spinal cord injury are particularly affected by heat and/or cold so they rely heavily on heating and cooling in their homes.

Miriam Dixon, CEO of Parkinson’s NSW said, ‘For people with Parkinson’s Disease their symptoms get much worse when they get too hot or too cold, and they are simply unable to get on with day-to-day activities that they can usually do. Keeping warm on cold days and cool on hot days creates major additional expenses for many people who are already on low-incomes.’

Dr Michael Summers, Senior Policy Advisor at Multiple Sclerosis Australia and author of the report said, ‘90% of people with MS really struggle with the heat, and up to 30% also have problems with the cold. For example, people with MS in NSW spend nine times more than the average household on air conditioning: $650 when someone has MS compared to $72 for average households.’

Jill Hodder, an ex school teacher who has been living with MS for many years said, ‘My house is an igloo in the summer and I keep jumpers by the front door for visitors. I do okay most days, but if I get hot I simply cannot function at all. I feel like I am cooking from the inside out’.

The MS Society, Parkinson’s NSW and PIAC have been lobbying the State Government for an energy rebate to assist people who are heat and cold intolerant, also known as thermoregulatory dysfunction.

Recently announced increases in electricity costs make the need for a medical cooling and heating energy rebate an even more urgent issue.

The Keeping Cool Survey of Australians with MS was part funded by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) Energy + Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program (EWCAP).

PIAC’s Joel Pringle can be contacted on 02 8898 6520 or 0406 435 290.
Parkinson’s NSW can be contacted on 02 8875 8901 or 0425 264 405.
MS Australia can be contacted through Arli Miller on 0409 654 183.
Advocates with Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease can be contacted through MS Australia and Parkinson’s NSW for interviews, photo and filming opportunities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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