Financial Counselling Australia has today written to the Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, expressing disappointment that last week’s budget did not include funding for financial counselling. The letter calls on the Queensland Government to fund a dedicated financial counselling program.
Queensland is now the only State and Territory Government that does not provide specific funding for a generalist financial counselling program (see table below for a break down for the other States/Territories).
By 30th June, around 20 Queensland financial counsellors will have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced because of funding cuts. The telephone financial counselling helpline is also cutting back its opening hours. It was previously open to help Queenslanders in financial difficulty, from 8 am to 6 pm each working day. From June 30th, this will reduce to 9.30 am to 4.30 pm.
“The loss of financial counselling positions in Queensland will mean that thousands of Queenslanders with credit and debt issues will not be able to get assistance”, said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia.
“While we appreciate the Queensland Government’s budgetary restraints, investing in financial counselling saves money, with fewer costs borne downstream by the health and social services system”, said Ms Guthrie. “At a time when cost of living pressures are acute, particularly with energy, financial counsellors are a front-line service that are needed more than ever.”
From the beginning of 2009 up until the major floods of 2011 in Queensland, the previous state government provided $2 million per annum for financial counselling. After the floods, the Commonwealth provided $2 million through its disaster response funding, with the State providing $0.5 million. The expiry of funding from both of these sources has led to the current reductions in services.
If Queensland were to provide the same per capita investment in financial counselling as the average for the other States and Territories ($1.14 per head), it would invest $5.2 million per annum.
Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007.
Media Contact: Fiona Guthrie, 0402 426 835
Funding for Generalist Financial Counselling Programs across Australia
Comparison of annual funding per capita for financial counselling by State and Territory – ranked by per capita expenditure – at 30th June 2013
|Jurisdiction||State/Territory Funding($ million)||Population(million)||Per capita|
|Australian Capital Territory||0.44||0.4||$1.20|
|New South Wales||6.03||7.3||$0.83|