Report: Where are we now? Energy support and COVID-19 impacts on Queenslanders

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Background

In late 2020 QCOSS analysed how Queenslanders were being impacted by COVID-19 across employment, financial, and mental health and wellbeing. The results showed Queenslanders were being very unevenly impacted. Many of those bearing the worst impacts are also those historically vulnerable or disadvantaged.

This analysis

QCOSS has re-run its impact analysis for these cohorts using updated data for February – April 2021. This latest analysis sheds light on whether most impacted cohorts had experienced further detriment, what had changed, and how things looked compared to the total Queensland sample.

Key findings

Survey data is being collected across four periods of time, each constituting a different ‘wave’.

  • Wave 1: August 2020 to October 2020
  • Wave 2: November 2020 to January 2021
  • Wave 3: February 2021 to April 2021
  • Wave 4: May 2021 to July 2021

This new analysis is focused on Wave 3, with comparisons made to Wave 1.

Overall, for the total Queensland sample, things are looking better in Wave 3 than Wave 1, though more of us don’t believe life will be better one year from now.

Looking at state-level aggregated data has significant limitations. We need to undertake more granular analysis to understand the different experiences of different people.

We learnt from our first analysis of Wave 1 survey data that there is an uneven distribution of impacts across the Queensland population (using the total Queensland sample as the baseline).

In Wave 3, the unevenness in impacts within the Queensland population persisted. Of those identified earlier as most-impacted these cohorts are still worse off:

  • women (18-54);
  • precariously employed (casual or part-time employed);
  • renters;
  • work seekers (unemployed persons and JobSeeker recipients);
  • young adults (18-24)

We also looked at those who had been JobKeeper recipients, finding them substantially impacted.

Young adults and JobKeeper recipients are the most impacted of the analysed cohorts

This is based on a review of impacts experienced in each survey period as well as how much their positions have worsened between surveys compared to the rest of Queensland. From our last review to this one, the impact gap widened across five of the eight impact measures.

Impacts reduced most for women (18-54), self-employed/small business owners, and those who are unemployed and seeking work.

Renters are the largest cohort making up 34 per cent of the sample size. Renters make up 69 per cent of JobKeeper recipients, 70 per cent of Young Adults and 64 per cent of those are unemployed and seeking work.

Targeting supports and initiatives to renters could therefore reach a significant number of relevant people in-need.

Chart: Were things getting worse or better?

Access to energy supports

More need still to come​

  • 11 per cent of respondents may need energy bill support in the next three months. 16 per cent currently receive some form of energy bill support.​
  • Fewer Young Adults and JobKeeper recipients receiving a government energy support ​
  • 29 per cent of all support-recipients vs.16 per cent for Young Adults and 14 per cent for JobKeeper recipients. ​

Positive role of support, still more to do:​

  • 55 per cent of support recipients could now comfortably afford their bills which is positive. ​
  • 27 per cent are just able to afford their bills, putting them at risk of a change of circumstances​
  • >10 per cent still finding energy bills difficult to afford.​

Lack of confidence in accessing supports by those who say they may need to: ​

  • 29 per cent of job seekers “not confident at all” to access supports. None were “very confident”. ​
  • Over 20 per cent of women (18-54), Young Adults, and Casual/Part-time respondents “not confident at all” to access supports. ​

Don’t take “don’t need it” as the whole story:​

  • Of those who “don’t need support”* …this was because:​
    • 7 per cent did not know how to access support;
    • 5 per cent indicated it takes too much effort;
    • 3 per cent tried but couldn’t get it; and
    • 2 per cent tried but found that available supports weren’t useful.​

*From total sample across all states​

Chart: Forms of energy bill support received

JobKeeper recipients struggled

While fewer had lost work in Wave 3 compared to Wave 1, the percentage of respondents who had lost income remained extremely high at 41 per cent.

Across all mental health and wellbeing impacts, such as financial stress, bill worry and pessimistic outlook, responses from JobKeeper recipients deteriorated substantially. Almost one-in-four believe they will lose work hours or their job when the scheme comes to an end. Nearly one-in-five indicated they expect to have difficulty affording essential goods or will experience a decrease in individual income.

JobSeeker recipients particularly impacted

Compared to Wave 1, JobSeeker recipient data showed reduced impacts across all measures except for ‘reduced spend on essentials’, which increased from 34 per cent to 36 per cent.

This should not be construed to mean they did not experience high levels of impact. JobSeeker recipients were particularly impacted on the key measures of lost work and reduced household income: 55 per cent experienced a reduction in household income.

JobSeeker recipients expect to experience multiple negative impacts as a result of the Coronavirus Supplement ending, with difficulty affording essential goods and a decrease in individual income at the top of the list.

Download the full report

About the survey

Four energy consumer and COVID-19 surveys have been commissioned by a group of Energy Charter signatories, with the surveys administered by Deloitte.

The surveys are completed on a quarterly basis over a 12-month period. The most recent survey was a random sample of 3,012 respondents nationally. Of these, 668 respondents were in Queensland. To read about the limitations of the survey and research see our first analysis here.

QCOSS wishes to thank The Energy Charter for their support of our supplementary analysis.

6 September 2021 | Focus area: |Service type: