Financial Counselling Australia’s pre-budget submission calls for the ongoing funding of Commonwealth-funded financial counselling services.
The Federal Government currently invests around $20 million per annum into financial counselling services. All of this funding expires at 30th June 2014.
The financial counselling sector is uncertain about the future of the program.
“We estimate that Commonwealth-funded face-to-face and phone financial counselling services will assist around 150,000 people in financial difficulty in 2013-14,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of FCA. “It would be a tragedy if funding was cut.”
FCA’s submission explains the positive benefits of financial counselling for individuals, families, government and the community. For example, In 2012, Swinburne University surveyed 225 clients who had accessed the Salvation Army’s MoneyCare service.Survey respondents indicated that as a result of financial counselling 66% said their financial difficulties had been resolved and 53% said they had avoided bankruptcy.
Financial difficulty does not occur in isolation and can affect an individual’s physical and mental health, places strains on relationships and can impact seriously on children. If financial difficulties can be resolved there are flow-on effects in the health and housing sectors with cost savings from fewer presentations, reduced housing stress and so on.
“Investing in financial counselling is smart spending,” said Ms Guthrie, “it saves the government money elsewhere in the social services system.”
The Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program began in 1990. In recent years, there have been additional funding injections. This funding has enabled the expansion of financial counselling to reach more clients, providing a model that integrates phone and face-to-face counselling for optimal service delivery.
Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007 or visit www.debtselfhelp.org.au.