The national peak body for financial counsellors, Financial Counselling Australia, has urged the WA Government to reverse funding cuts that will see the closure of all State-funded financial counselling services in the Perth metropolitan area.

Financial counselling agencies were notified by the WA Department of Child Protection and Family Services, on Friday 5th June. The services are expected to close in just over three months, on 30 September 2015.

“This is a devastating blow for financial counsellors and their clients,” said Fiona Guthrie, the Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia.

“Financial counsellors help people in financial difficulty get back on track. Without access to free and independent advice, people will remain trapped in a cycle of debt,” said Ms Guthrie.

“It will be impossible for the telephone financial counselling service in Perth to fill the gap. As well, some clients with complex issues need the assistance that only a face-to-face service can provide.”

FCA has notified the WA Government that it would save much more in reduced costs in the health and social services systems by keeping services active, as financial counselling gives people the help they need without turning to other frontline services.

A 2014 Cost-Benefit analysis of financial counselling from Adelaide University shows that every $1 invested in financial counselling saves $5.

Financial difficulties are so often related to, or the cause of, other problems. These include family breakdown, deteriorating mental and physical health, and sadly, sometimes family violence. These costs are also borne by the community, as well as the Government.

It is estimated approximately 50 financial counsellors will lose their jobs. Some services have been serving their local communities for 20 years or more.

Rural financial counselling services have a 12 month reprieve, but it is unclear what will happen at the end of this time.

In the meantime, FCA has committed to doing whatever it can to convince the WA Government to reverse this decision.

Financial counsellors: community-based professionals providing information, support and advocacy for people in financial difficulty.

Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007 or visit www.debtselfhelp.org.au.

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