Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has welcomed the Government’s announcement of $15 million of funding for free financial counselling and mental health support for small business in the upcoming federal Budget.
The Government has pledged $4 million for the Small Business Debt Helpline (SBDH), administered by FCA, and $10.9 million for mental health through the New Access To Small Business Owners program operated by Beyond Blue.
SBDH general manager Helen Davis said she was delighted for the sector which has faced a “perfect storm” of debt challenges in recent months.
“This is absolutely terrific news for a sector which is really doing it tough at the moment,” Ms Davis said. “It is a particularly challenging and stressful time for small business, with many of our callers highlighting a “perfect storm” of debt.
“They are challenged to pay simultaneously business finance debts, ATO debts and commercial lease debts that were on hold during COVID-19 and repeated lockdowns. On top of this, businesses are grappling with energy debts, as well as the challenges of the current labour shortage and supply chain issues.”
Ms Davis said many small business owners were also facing the added challenge of ongoing natural disasters.
“Just this week, we have begun working with small business owners impacted by the flooding in Victoria. We can hear it in the voices of these people, that their financial exhaustion is feeding into their emotional exhaustion.”
Ms Davis said the Government’s commitment to, and acknowledgement of, the vital role of financial counselling would help enable the SBDH to continue providing help to those small businesses.
“The Small Business Debt Helpline has provided 3665 cases of assistance to Australian small businesses since its inception in March 2020. And every day we hear how much the callers appreciate the ability simply to talk with someone, to know they’re not alone.”
Ms Davis said the helpline is an independent, non-judgmental “listening ear” that works with people to identify their options and the next step or course of action that will most help them and their business.
“While much of the public focus has been on the cost-of-living pressures more broadly, we cannot forget that many small businesses are sole traders and family enterprises who are facing very similar struggles, people who have put their homes on the line to realise their dream of operating a small business.”
Ms Davis said many small businesses were only just keeping their heads above water with many eating into savings and personal assets to survive.
Small business owners can call the Small Business Debt Helpline on 1800 413 828 or visit sbdh.org.au.
Mike Bruce, Director of Community Engagement: 0403 920 189 or email [email protected]