FRIDAY 21 MAY, 2010: JUST after the announcement of the sixth interest rate rise in eight months, UnitingCare Community has released a new report, Our Financial wellbeing: A report on Financial Stress in Queensland, demonstrating the need for financial counselling services in Queensland has outlived the Global Financial Crisis.
As a result of this research, UnitingCare Community is calling on the Queensland Government to continue funding generalist financial counselling services at $3million per year for three years, and encourages the corporate sector to show leadership in the area of corporate social responsibility by supporting financial counselling through a corporate community partnership.
Lifeline Financial Counselling Practice Leader, Ken Campbell said sectors within the community continue to find it difficult to cope with financial stress.
“With a growing unemployment rate in Queensland, a 23% increase in bankruptcies, increasing house prices and rents, and increasing interest rates, UnitingCare Community is expecting to see significant financial hardship over the next two years.
“The data compiled in this report states quite clearly that many Queenslanders are struggling and the need for financial counselling services in Queensland is stronger than ever.
“A study conducted at the beginning of 2010 states that 28 percent of Queenslanders are financially unfit. That is to say they have an over-reliance on debt, little or no regular savings, no insurance coverage and high housing costs relative to their income.
“That’s 1.2 million Queenslanders and an increase of 16 per cent from the same time in 2009,” Mr Campbell said.
Lifeline’s Financial Counselling program is funded by the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, corporate partners such as Ergon and Origin Energy, and self-funded through Lifeline’s retail business and fundraising activities.
Announced in December 2008, the Queensland Government generously committed $3 million over 18 months to generalist Financial Counselling services to help Queenslanders in financial distress.
UnitingCare Community Executive Director, Trevor Carlyon said UnitingCare Community is committed to the provision of free, independent and confidential financial counselling to all Queenslanders.
“As Queensland’s largest provider of financial counselling services, UnitingCare Community is concerned that without recurring State Government funding, many Queenslanders in financial distress will not have access to the help they need, instead borrowing to pay existing debt and compounding their financial hardship,” Mr Carlyon said.
“Currently, partnerships with companies such as Ergon and Origin Energy are increasing Lifeline’s capacity to reach out and help clients faster. However, the demand on the service is creating longer waiting lists in Lifeline Centres throughout the state.
“More Financial Counsellors are needed to keep up with demand as well as support for non-service delivery resources such as industry research, networking and training as well as staff recruitment and retention strategies,” Mr Carlyon said.
In November 2008, UnitingCare Community established a Financial First Aid Telephone Counselling Line to provide direct assistance to those who could not immediately access a face-to-face Financial Counsellor.
The funding provided by the State Government aided Lifeline in expanding this service, extending opening hours, training new staff, and growing the service from helping under 100 callers in the first three months of operation to now averaging over 400 callers per month.
The Financial First Aid Counselling Line has assisted UnitingCare Community reach more people in financial distress, however the extreme demand for Financial Counselling services in Queensland means many people have to wait up to four weeks for an appointment with a Financial Counsellor, or travel several hours.
Financial Counselling North Queensland Team Leader, Tania Eldridge said those who come to see a Financial Counsellor often feel embarrassed about their situation.
“Talking about money can be a bit of a taboo,” Ms Eldridge said.
“Once people come in you can just see the relief on their faces after their first interview with us - They’ve just been able to unload it on us and lay it out on the table.
“Just even talking about it before we’ve even offered anything, you can just see on their faces ‘Oh it’s just so good to get that off my chest’,” Ms Eldridge said.
Those experiencing financial stress can call the Financial First Aid Counselling Line Monday to Friday 9am - 6pm on 1300 370 255.
To arrange an interview, please contact Lifeline Communications Officer, anna-maria [dot] masci [at] lccq [dot] org [dot] au (Anna Masci) on 3250 1848 or 0408 751 831.