Agencies welcome boost to financial counselling
Anglicare WA and UnitingCare West (UCW) have welcomed the announcement by the Department of Communities, which will see 11 new services established in areas of high need, bringing the total number to 25 to ensure greater access to support during times of financial hardship.
Anglicare WA’s financial counselling service and UCW’s Creditcare service are part of a network of financial counselling providers across WA which have been overwhelmed by a growing demand for support, particularly post-mining boom.
Requests for assistance rose by more than 30 per cent to 8,332 in the six months to 30 June 2017. Counsellors worked with 2,383 clients across 2,263 cases. Disturbingly, 4,182 clients were turned away because a financial counsellor was not available.
Anglicare WA and UCW were among 32 sector participants representing 22 organisations at a Department of Communities’ Metropolitan Financial Counselling workshop held in October. Feedback from the day supported a move for new funding to be used to increase the level of services in areas where there is high un-met demand.
The additional funding will see up to six new partner agencies engaged to deliver services in a number of new locations including Morley, Mirrabooka, Alkimos/Yanchep, Innaloo, Cannington, Canning Vale, Forrestfield, Byford, Kwinana and Hamilton Hill. The service availability for Ellenbrook will also be expanded. This will result in 15 member organisations delivering financial counselling services in 25 locations across the metropolitan area.
UCW CEO Amanda Hunt said the collaboration with partner agencies and the Department of Communities to agree on the expansion of the Metropolitan Financial Counselling Network was a great outcome for WA.
“Our clients are coming to us in record numbers with multiple debts and complex issues, with unemployment and under-employment at the forefront. This service expansion is critical in helping to meet this ever growing demand,” Ms Hunt said.
“Recent statistics show that bankruptcy rates in the northern suburbs and Rockingham area during the first half of 2017 were the highest in Australia. Banks are getting tougher on debt and many people are having to sell their homes after initial debt moratoriums have lapsed.”
Anglicare WA CEO Ian Carter said the greater number of financial counselling services would provide support for many more people.
“Anglicare WA recognises that some people are really struggling on low and fixed incomes which have not kept pace with cost of living, and that things like hefty power bills can be overwhelming to household budgets and very stressful to families.
“Financial counselling can greatly assist in giving people the skills to organise sustainable household budgets to meet their obligations, arrange affordable repayment plans and apply for grants and no interest loans where that might be suitable,” Mr Carter said.
The Financial Counselling Network, an innovative model of service delivery, was established in 2015 to deliver financial counselling services across the Perth metropolitan area. Two lead agencies, Anglicare WA and UnitingCare West, sub-contract with partner agencies to jointly provide services across the metropolitan area. The Network seeks to achieve improved client outcomes through active collaboration and a centralised approach.