Bet­ter op­tions

Benalla Ensign - - Community Voice -

As more peo­ple be­come trapped in the high-in­ter­est net of com­mer­cial small-loans, Echuca Neigh­bour­hood House (ENH) is cast­ing the com­mu­nity a life­line. A No In­ter­est Loan Scheme (NILS) is man­aged through ENH and pro­vides up to $1500 per loan ($800 if the ap­pli­cant’s only in­come is New­start). And pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor Julie Sands be­lieved too few peo­ple used the prod­uct — or even realised it was avail­able to them. ‘‘The 12-month loans are pro­vided through Good Shep­herd Mi­cro­fi­nance and sup­ported by Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank,’’ Ms Sands said. ‘‘They can be used across a broad spec­trum in­clud­ing white­goods, house­hold items, car re­pairs and med­i­cal ex­penses. ‘‘The scheme can also be used for so­cial rea­sons. ‘‘Peo­ple may want to buy a bar­be­cue or a swing set for their chil­dren. ‘‘The loans are not for cash, bond, rent ar­rears, debt con­sol­i­da­tion, hol­i­days or bills.’’ With many peo­ple be­com­ing caught in the web of small-loan com­pa­nies of­fer­ing fast cash at sky-high in­ter­est rates, Ms Sands said the NILS was a safer and less stress­ful way of solv­ing short-term fi­nan­cial chal­lenges. ‘‘NILS is all about fi­nan­cial is­sues that re­ally con­front in­di­vid­u­als or fam­i­lies, such as some med­i­cal and den­tal ser­vices, keep­ing a car on the road, bro­ken wash­ing machines or re­frig­er­a­tors or crit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion needs,’’ she said. ‘‘NILS pro­vides in­di­vid­u­als, cou­ples and fam­i­lies on low in­comes with ac­cess to safe, fair and af­ford­able credit. ‘‘There are no catches, no fine print, no hid­den fees and charges and no in­ter­est for the life of the loan. ‘‘Peo­ple get caught in the mo­ment and the ease of small com­mer­cial loans or credit cards. ‘‘They don’t think ahead and they get caught with high in­ter­est and de­fault fees.’’ Ms Sands said the NILS pro­gram had been suc­cess­ful since it was de­vel­oped in 1981, main­tain­ing a 94 per cent re­pay­ment rate. ‘‘We don’t just give you the money and walk away, there is a con­tract and you do have to pay it back,’’ she said. ‘‘Like any ser­vice, if it’s not used it will shut down. ‘‘If peo­ple don’t keep tak­ing out loans, then the ser­vice will stop be­ing avail­able. ‘‘It’s hard to get it back once it’s taken away.”

For more in­for­ma­tion or to ap­ply for a loan, phone ENH on 5482 6914 or go to

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