$7.4 mil­lion fi­nan­cial coun­selling boost

Southern Gazette (Belmont) - - FRONT PAGE -

WITH $7.4 mil­lion com­mit­ted by the State Gov­ern­ment in the new Bud­get to fi­nan­cial coun­selling, the team at Jacaranda in Bel­mont are hope­ful it means a turn­ing point for lo­cals.

The funds are set to be de­liv­ered over four years, giv­ing more peo­ple im­me­di­ate ac­cess to sup­port in times of hard­ship.

Jacaranda CEO and fi­nan­cial coun­sel­lor Lyn­d­sey Fitzger­ald said it was ex­tremely good news for her staff and vol­un­teers.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has been run­ning an un­funded fi­nan­cial coun­selling ser­vice since 2015, when it lost $256,000 af­ter the then Depart­ment of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Com­mu­ni­ties in­tro­duced a con­sor­tium model.

In the past fi­nan­cial year, Jacaranda saw 771 clients on its un­funded pro­gram.

“If you were be­hind with your power bill, would you know what to do?” Mrs Fitzger­ald said.

“We’re trained to get the rights of the clients. The clients don’t get their rights when there aren’t the ser­vices avail­able, or we can’t ex­tend it enough be­cause of the money.

“The num­ber of clients com­ing through is enor­mous. We’ve taken the money out of our bank ac­count to keep go­ing and we can’t keep it run­ning much longer.”

Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Min­is­ter Si­mone McGurk said fi­nan­cial coun­selling ser­vices in the metro re­gion were forced to turn away more than 3000 re­quests for as­sis­tance in the sec­ond half of 2016.

“This was en­tirely due to $1.5 mil­lion in fund­ing cuts im­ple­mented by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, leav­ing some of WA’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple at a fur­ther dis­ad­van­tage,” Ms McGurk said.

“Turn­ing peo­ple away from ac­cess to ap­pro­pri­ate fi­nan­cial coun­selling as­sis­tance has se­ri­ous so­cial con­se­quences.”

Along with re­duc­ing wait­ing lists, the fund­ing is set to pri­ori­tise fam­i­lies ex­pe­ri­enc­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son

Jacaranda staff and vol­un­teers.

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