28th January 2014 – Financial Counselling Australia has today released its 2012-13 Annual Report.
“It was a big year for FCA with significant milestones”, said FCA’s Executive Director Fiona Guthrie. “We all like to think we’re making a difference, but in writing this annual report we’ve tried to step back and actually assess our impact. For a small organisation, we are proud of what we achieved.”
Highlights from the past financial year include:
- Building the financial counselling profession – More than 300 financial counsellors are now accessing a special password-protected website for their use only. Access to the dedicated resources on the site, including standard letters and forms and relevant information, is improving the consistency and quality of service delivery.
- Hardship practices in industry – the first national Rank the Bank report led to a number of meetings with the banking industry and changes to practices. We also worked cooperatively with both the banking industry and telcos in the development of hardship guidelines.
- A fairer deal – Our report into Centrepay, a free bill paying service for people in receipt of Centrelink payments, led to the announcement by the Government of an independent review, the first step in making changes. We are particularly concerned about ongoing access to Centrepay by rental companies.
- Access to financial counselling (demand continues to outstrip supply) – FCA coordinates the national phone financial counselling helpline (1800 007 007). The services handled 80,000 phone calls, dramatically increasing access to financial counselling. We also launched a dedicated website for people in financial difficulty, debtselfhelp.org.au The site has 50 fact sheets, standard template letters, short videos and, in a first for Australia, an innovative self help tool. The site receives 800 hits per month, with significant potential for increase.
Other important projects:
- We continued to work with the financial services industry to progress the pilot of the Debt Repayment Service.
- We organised an annual conference week attended by over 500 people.
- We consulted the sector about the draft Agency Practice Standards, designed to provide guidance for agencies in providing high quality financial counselling services.
- We facilitated discussions with the state and territory peak bodies on common standards for membership and accreditation as well as a national registration system for financial counsellors.
And finally, we welcomed the legislative protection of the term “financial counsellor” on 1 March 2013, a recognition of the importance of free, independent and confidential financial counselling. Only people who are highly trained and meet the stringent membership requirements of financial counselling associations can call themselves financial counsellors.
(If printing the report, please note it was designed in A3 format.)
Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007 or visit www.debtselfhelp.org.au.
For further comment please contact: Fiona Guthrie 0402 426 835