16th May 2014 – Financial counsellors around Australia have welcomed continued funding for financial counselling services in the Commonwealth Budget.

The mood is one of relief, rather than celebration however. The last few months have been particularly difficult for the sector, with the potential for 350 financial counsellors to lose their jobs and progress over the past two decades lost.

We appreciate that the government faces a difficult fiscal environment and the continuation in funding (we understand with some minimal cuts) is an important recognition of the important work that financial counsellors do.

In addition to thanking the government and Minister Andrews for his support, thank you also to the many external stakeholders who supported our sector in the past few months including: industry bodies and individual companies (banking, energy, insurance, customer-owned banks), the EDR schemes and individual Ombudsman and a number of Federal and State politicians (from all political parties) and our colleagues in other community organisations.  A number of media commentators also followed our story, giving a voice to clients and financial counsellors.

The financial counselling sector also welcomes the news that current funding contracts are being extended for six months, during which time there will be a new tendering process, and eventually longer funding contracts.  The philosophy behind the changes – to integrate, streamline and improve service delivery as well as reduce red tape – is a sensible one. We understand that the process will inevitably, and appropriately, mean changes and the final arrangements may look quite different to the way they do today.  FCA looks forward to working with the government and the sector to manage this transition.

The key point is that continued funding means that thousands of Australians in financial difficulty will continue to get access to services that will help them. The benefits of financial counselling are widespread, impacting positively on individuals, families and the broader community.

FCA shares the concerns of the broader community sector about the impact of the Budget overall. As ACOSS said in its press release “those in our nation who carry the greatest burden from spending cuts in the Budget are those who can least afford it”.  There is no doubt that many of the Budget measures will result in increased demand for financial counselling and emergency relief services.  More and more people will be facing tough times.

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

For further comment please contact:  Fiona Guthrie 0402 426 835