Cost-of-living increases and back-to-school expenses have forced growing numbers of Sunbury and Macedon Ranges families to seek help from support agencies.

Charities have reported that more families asked for assistance in 2015 than in any previous year, and early indications are that the trend will continue.

Household gas prices are expected to rise between five and eight per cent this year, while the cost of public transport, car registration and postage all went up on January 1. Sunbury Salvation Army’s Auxiliary Lieutenant Andrew Webb said people on low incomes or those out of work were again being asked to do more with less.

‘‘Post-Christmas is a particularly tough time for many,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve had 50-60 clients just this year.’’

The Salvos offer emergency relief in the form of vouchers, food parcels and referrals to financial counselling and other services.

More than 270 Sunbury cases were handled in the final six months of last year.

Bendigo Labor MP Lisa Chesters has warned that the pressure on parents of students is going to get worse, with the federal government axing the schoolkids’ bonus from next year.

The bonus gives eligible families $430 for every primary school child and $856 for every child in secondary school.

‘‘The scrapped scheme means a typical Australian family with two kids in school will lose up to $15,000 over the course of their children’s schooling,’’ Ms Chesters said. ‘‘Local families simply can’t afford to pay any extra, leaving our schools and children worse off.’’

Mr Webb urged anyone finding themselves struggling to meet basic needs to seek immediate help rather than go into debt.

‘‘It’s better if we can intervene early,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s much easier to keep people on track than it is to recover people who have gone way off.’’

Details: 9744 2095