Financial Counselling Australia is the national peak body for financial counselling organisations, which has been fighting hard in recent months to end funding uncertainty for the various programs run around Australia to help low-income consumers in financial hardship.
The Commission of Audit today released recommendations condemning these services, and FCA was immediate in their call for the Government to reject these outright.
Read FCA’s full response below:
Stunned. Incredulous. Shocked.
Financial counsellors around Australia will be aghast that the Commission of Audit can so blithely – in 72 words – recommend de-funding all but $6 million of the $100 million the Commonwealth Government invests in the Financial Management Program.
The Commission of Audit has also recommended the de-funding of rural financial counselling services.
We urge the Government to reject these recommendations.
We note in particular that the Government has consistently said it will protect people who are vulnerable.
The Commission of Audit does not appear to have considered the benefits and avoided costs of these vital programs.
Financial counselling ($20 million) – when people lose their jobs, get sick or they’re struggling on low incomes, debts soon mount up. Financial counsellors help people re-prioritise payments, save people from bankruptcy and get back on track. The benefits of financial counselling are well documented and far exceed the costs.
Emergency relief ($84 million) – sometimes people find themselves in such dire straits that they don’t have enough food, face disconnection from essential services or can’t pay their rent. Emergency relief funding helps people through a crisis so they can stablise their position.
Money management services – are targeted toward Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers, primarily in rural and remote areas. These workers provide basic financial literacy skills and make an enormous difference in helping people with budgeting and managing money. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers face high levels of financial exclusion.
While some state and local governments also fund financial counselling, demand far exceeds supply and there are long waiting lists. These programs are a shared Commonwealth/State responsibility. We note that the Commonwealth has sole responsibility for the regulation of credit.
Financial counsellors would understand if the Commission of Audit had suggested a review of the Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program. It has been operating for nearly 25 years and although we are continually trying to improve, it would be sensible to take stock of service delivery mechanisms, approaches and locations. But de-funding the program simply doesn’t make economic sense. It saves the government far more money than it costs.
Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007 or visit www.debtselfhelp.org.au.