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Battlers sweltering through summer with aircon too dear

Australians on the lowest incomes are sweltering through summer at the expense of their health as air conditioning stretches budgets too far.

A new survey by the Australian Council of Social Service found two-thirds of people on income support could not afford to cool their homes, instead struggling through temperatures reaching 45C.

Of 208 people surveyed by the peak welfare advocacy group, 62 per cent said they struggled to keep their homes cool in summer.

The heat impacted health and wellbeing, with 30 per cent saying they had suffered heat stress badly enough to seek medical care.

Disability support pension recipient Clare, who lives in Perth, said she had recorded indoor temperatures of more than 40C.

"The hotter it is, the worse my fatigue and weakness, the more frequent and persistent the migraine and I am more likely to have heart rate spikes with blood pressure drops that can result in losing consciousness," she said.

"It is usually 10 degrees hotter inside than outside in the evenings and opening up the windows and doors is pointless unless there's a good breeze."

As electricity bills rise, more than 80 per cent of those surveyed said they found it hard to keep up with the cost.

Meanwhile, 73 per cent said they had cut back on using fans or air conditioning and more than 65 per cent said they had gone without food or medicine to afford energy bills.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said people on the lowest incomes were suffering the effects of climate change and soaring energy costs.

"Too many people are living in housing that is poorly insulated and far too hot in summer," she said.

"Soaring energy bills and woefully inadequate income support levels mean they cannot afford to keep themselves cool and this is having a serious impact on their physical and mental health."

In the federal budget to be handed down in May, Dr Goldie wants to see government investment to improve the energy performance of low-income housing and debt relief for people struggling to keep up with electricity bills.

She also called on state and territory governments to mandate minimum energy performance standards in rental properties and reform energy concessions.