THE NUMBER of people seeking support at Christmas increased by up to 25 per cent this year, according to statistics revealed by UnitingCare.
The welfare agency told The Courier that this festive season, Australian families were doing it much tougher than in previous years.
UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania director Charles Gibson said many families were prioritising bills before food and found it increasingly difficult to put money aside for Christmas.
“We are now seeing more and more people who we wouldn’t have seen three years ago., Mr Gibson said.
Most of these new service users are the working poor, people who may be employed or underemployed and have considerable debt commitments.”
This year, UnitingCare asked the community to support those in need by donating gifts and goods through its Operation Santa campaign.
Operation Santa national co-ordinator Catherine Robertson said the Ballarat community gave generously this year particularly with gift card donations.
She said local volunteers reported gift numbers were “significantly down from last year” but she hoped the gift card donations would supplement the lower gift numbers.
Other welfare agencies across Ballarat also received a large number of gifts and goods from the community.
St Vincent de Paul regional president Bernie Holloway said the charity benefited greatly from the generous donations received from the community and through the 3BA Christmas Appeal.