Financial Counselling Australia has today released its report “Click Here: Who is Referring to Financial Counselling Services?”
All of the major banks, a number of major government departments, finance industry peak bodies and dispute resolution schemes include information on their websites explaining how people can access financial counselling. The national telephone financial counselling helpline – 1800 007 007 – was the primary point of access.
“The audit demonstrates the critical and unique role played by financial counsellors in the service delivery system,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of FCA.
Examples of organisations with information and contact details for financial counselling on their websites include:
- MoneySmart – ASIC’s financial literacy website, which includes a “Find a Financial Counsellor” search tool;
- www.disasterassist.gov.au, the Government’s portal to help people affected by natural disasters
- Australian Financial Security Authority – AFSA administers personal insolvencies;
- Australian Bankers Association – www.doingittough.info The ABA is the banking industry peak body. This website is targeted toward consumers;
- Insurance Council of Australia – www.understandinsurance.com.au The ICA is the insurance industry peak body. This website is targeted toward consumers;
- Financial Ombudsman Service, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the various energy and water ombudsman schemes.
For organisations seeking to refer people to financial counsellors, two good starting points are FCA’s website consumer website www.debtselfhelp.org.au and the 1800 007 007 financial counselling helpline.
“The 1800 phone service can be a bit like the first response on an accident scene, providing financial first aid and triage. Some clients can be assisted on the phone, while others with more complex issues, require referral to a face-to-face financial counsellor. Some clients will need urgent assistance, for example if court action has commenced and they are at risk of losing their home or are suicidal as a result of their financial difficulties.”
“Financial counsellors know they make a difference – their clients tell them,” said Ms Guthrie. “ And we hear the same thing from banks, utility companies and government departments. The audit findings were not a surprise. ”
A cost-benefit analysis of financial counselling released earlier this month found that every $1 invested in financial counselling returns $5 in benefits.
Financial counsellors are funded by both Commonwealth and State governments. The funding contracts for the Commonwealth government financial counselling program end on 30 June 2014. To date, there has been no decision made about the future of the program.
Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007 or visit www.debtselfhelp.org.au.