Financial counselling services across Victoria are reporting unacceptable wait times as demand for assistance during this cost-of-living crisis, and SSRV is supporting a call by community organisations for increased resources to meet the demand.
In an open letter signed by 36 community organisations, Financial Counselling Victoria explains to the Victorian Government that the current situation puts vulnerable people at risk.
In the first six months of this year, phone calls to the National Debt Helpline in Victoria increased by 47 per cent compared to last year. This is due to high demand resulting from unmanageable living costs, including interest rate rises, unaffordable rentals, soaring energy prices, and increased grocery bills.
Centrelink issues are often accompanied by more complex financial situations and behaviours, and at SSRV, we see how access to financial counselling services can assist those with Centrelink issues to manage their current challenges and safeguard them against being repeated.
Financial counsellors are now seeing more and more middle-income earners who, for the first time, simply can’t afford to pay their bills
Financial counsellors are uniquely qualified professionals, specially trained to deal with complex financial matters such as rent stress, energy hardship, financial abuse arising from family violence, gambling-related harm, and arrangements for fines.
“These challenges disproportionately impact low-income families, single mother families, older women, and people from migrant backgrounds.” said SSRV financial counsellor Graeme Parsons.
The Financial Counselling Victoria open letter urges the Victorian Government to:
- Immediately uplift financial counsellor workforce numbers;
- Resource the expansion of the workforce; and
- Commit to further grow the financial counselling workforce over the next three years.
“When a family is in financial hardship or is experiencing an issue they feel unable to resolve, it needs to be addressed quickly,” says Graeme Parsons. “They simply can’t be put onto month-long waiting lists. It’s not just their financial welfare that’s put at risk, it’s their mental and physical health as well.
SSRV’s CEO, Gillian Wilks, says that, “SSRV supports the sector in urging the government to address this problem as a matter of priority.”