Financial counsellors – who work in non-profit community organisations and help consumers in financial difficulty – are themselves in serious financial trouble.
Funding for Queensland’s financial counselling program finishes on 30th June. The Queensland Government has been sympathetic to continuing the service but has yet to announce its decision.
If Queensland pulls out of financial counselling, it will be the only State or Territory Government that does not provide funding for financial counselling. The NSW and Victorian Governments for example invest over $6 million per annum. The program in Queensland was just $2.5 million per annum.
Chair of the Financial Counsellors’ Association of Queensland Mark Phillips has called on the Minister, Tracy Davis and the Premier to continue the service.
“Thousands of Queenslanders each year are assisted by financial counsellors. They’ll simply have nowhere to go unless current funding levels continue”, said Mr Phillips.
Financial counsellors help people get back on top of debt problems. They help people negotiate affordable repayments, restructure debts or challenge unfair financial practices.
“Financial counsellors literally save lives, because financial stress is the cause of so many other problems” said Mr Phillips. “People’s relationships suffer, their health can suffer and families suffer. Saving money by cutting the financial counselling program is a false economy, because the costs will simply be magnified in other ways – with increases in illness, hospital admissions and family breakdown.”
The loss of the funding will affect 30 financial counsellors (about 20 FTE), leaving just a handful of financial counsellors who are funded by the Commonwealth Government.
· The telephone financial counselling service would be severely curtailed – last year it handled over 10,000 inbound calls and made 6,000 outbound calls (eg negotiating with creditors)
· A number of face-to-face services would close. Those that would remain open already have long waiting lists and these would be unable to cope with the increased demand
· When the next natural disaster hits – a flood, a cyclone – there won’t be a workforce able to help victims navigate the many financial issues (including insurance claims) that inevitably arise.