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Financial counselling peak bodies endorse Uluru Statement

The peak bodies in the financial counselling sector are proud to announce their support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Statement calls for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament, a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between First Nations people and governments, and truth-telling about Australia’s history and colonisation.

These key reforms are referred to as: Voice, Treaty, Truth.

Together the reforms aim to bring structural change so that First Nations people can take their rightful place in guiding the future of Australia.

Reinforcing the need for structural change, we note that a number of the clients of financial counsellors and financial capability workers are First Nations people. This is just one legacy of the continued disadvantage faced by many First Nations people.

We are also proud that a number of financial counsellors and financial capability workers in our sector are First Nations people.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was developed by more than 250 First Nations delegates and delivered at the National Constitutional Convention in 2017.

It concludes with these beautiful words: “In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”

We are walking with you.

While we announce our support for the Statement during NAIDOC Week 2021, we urge our members and the broader community to keep this conversation going well beyond July 2021.

FCA and the state and territory associations encourage financial counsellors, as well as other Australians, to support the Statement by signing up here.

Bank Announcement of Further Assistance for Customers a Timely Relief

Today’s announcement by the banking industry of further assistance to help customers experiencing financial hardship will provide some important relief to those who continue to be impacted by COVID-19.

CHOICE, Financial Rights Legal Centre, Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Counselling Australia are at the forefront of helping people impacted by COVID-19, particularly people doing it tough.

Knowing that there will be further assistance from banks will be a weight off people’s minds.

Consumer groups’ key advice to anyone experiencing financial difficulty is:

  • If you can afford to resume payments, even at a reduced amount, the earlier you can do that the better.
  • Talk to your bank openly about your financial position. Banks have a range of options that might assist.
  • If you need more assistance, talk to a free and independent financial counsellor by ringing the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

To offer genuinely effective help to customers, banks will need to resource their assistance teams and proactively identify people that need help, starting with those at most risk of financial hardship.

Banks have great insight into customers who are most affected by this crisis. It is vital that banks use their data to identify people who are likely to be in financial hardship, contact them, and help them understand the options available to them.

The consumer groups are calling on banks to recognise that:

  • there will be groups of people who are going to need longer term and more flexible hardship arrangements.
  • there were groups of people pre-pandemic with persistent credit card debt. Lenders should be providing specific assistance, including interest rate reductions, debt waivers and refund of interest, where people have been trapped in long term, persistent credit card debt.
  • access to assistance should be as simple as possible, acknowledging that financial difficulty will affect peoples’ ability to pay not only loans but other household bills.

Other financial services providers, as well as utilities and telcos, will also need to extend their current assistance packages and provide proactive support to as many people who will need longer to get back on their feet.

Financial counsellors urge the Federal Government to permanently increase JobSeeker

Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes reported moves to permanently increase the JobSeeker Payment, once the current scheme ends in September.

There are news reports today that the Federal Government is considering an increase to the payment of $75 a week, representing an additional $10 a day.

“Financial counsellors urge the Federal Government to introduce a permanent increase to the JobSeeker Payment,” said the CEO of Financial Counselling Australia, Fiona Guthrie.

“However, an extra $10 a day will not be enough to keep people from falling into financial hardship,” Ms Guthrie said.

It is vital that the current JobSeeker Payment is extended beyond September 2020.

The Newstart Allowance was renamed JobSeeker and was lifted from a base rate of $565.70 a fortnight to $1,115.70 as part of a temporary measure which expires in September.

“The new rate, which was introduced to help people cope with the economic effects of COVID-19, is a more reasonable amount of money for people to live off.”

“If the Government ends the current arrangement, people will not be able to pay their debts and bills and will find themselves living at or near the poverty line. That is not the sort of Australia we want,” Ms Guthrie said.

Financial counsellors are skilled professionals who provide FREE, independent and confidential advice for people in financial hardship. They are not planners or advisers. They don’t provide investment advice, and nor do they earn commissions.

“We urge anyone in financial stress to contact a financial counsellor. They can speak with one by calling the National Debt Helpline (NDH) on 1800 007 007,” Ms Guthrie said.

Counsellors on the NDH can provide immediate advice to those in need and may also refer them on to other free services.

To organise an interview, please contact Maura Angle on 0418 334 121 or email [email protected]

FCA releases annual report

MEDIA RELEASE

FCA has today released its annual report for 2016-17. You can read about what we did in our one page highlights document or delve deeper in the full report.

We have much to celebrate as we look back on a big year. We are particularly proud of the launch of the National Debt Helpline,* the new name for the 1800 007 007 telephone financial counselling service and its accompanying website (www.ndh.org.au). Calls to the National Debt Helpline were up by 11% on the previous year and visits to the website continue to grow.

On the policy front, we continued our work on online gambling and the development by the Federal Government of a consumer protection framework. We are delighted with recent legislation reforming the Interactive Gambling Act. The changes prohibit gambling companies from giving credit to gamblers, ban in-play betting and set up a national self-exclusion register.

We continued to make waves at our annual conference, which was attended by a record 677 people from all over Australia. They immersed themselves in discussions and workshops on topics as diverse as modern slavery, the curse of gambling addictions and improving superannuation for women.

With financial counsellors working on ever more complex cases, FCA welcomed increased funding from the Federal Government allowing us to coordinate professional development for the sector and to support financial capability workers, including a number of workers whose clients are from remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

One ongoing project was the redesign of the financial counselling toolkit website — the password-protected website for financial counsellors. Over 70 pages of content has been rewritten and there is a new learning management system. We also conducted a training needs analysis focusing on family violence (with the training now rolling out across Australia).

We look forward to working with all of our stakeholders in 2018.

*The National Debt Helpline is operated by a different community agency in each State or Territory. FCA coordinates these services to ensure consistent delivery.

Media Contact
Fiona Guthrie, CEO Financial Counselling Australia
0402 426 835
[email protected]

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