Cuts add to plight of vul­ner­a­ble

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - News - Sarah Wa­ters

PERTH THE state’s most dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple are at risk of fall­ing into fur­ther hard­ship, fol­low­ing the Bar­nett Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cut fi­nan­cial coun­selling fund­ing.

Fi­nan­cial coun­selling is a free ser­vice of­fered to peo­ple who are strug­gling to pay debts and man­age their money.

The State Gov­ern­ment plans to stop fund­ing the ser­vice in metropoli­tan ar­eas by Septem­ber 30 and save at least $6 mil­lion over the next four years.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of the WA Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vice (WACOSS) Irina Cat­tal­ini said the cuts had come at a time when the ser­vice was needed more than ever.

“The WA econ­omy is slow­ing, un­em­ploy­ment is ris­ing and in­creas­ing num­bers of house­holds are find­ing them­selves in fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties,” she said.

“The coun­cil called on the State Gov­ern­ment to pro­gres­sively shift in­vest­ment from the most ex­pen­sive, acute-end ser­vices, to­wards ser­vices that in­ter­vene early to pre­vent en­trenched dis­ad­van­tage. This de­ci­sion flies in the face of that.”

WACOSS asked the state to in­vest $1.5 mil­lion in fi­nan­cial coun­selling ser­vices in its 2015-16 pre­bud­get sub­mis­sion so they could re­spond to long wait­ing lists and deal with the in­creased com­plex­ity of debt ex­pe­ri­enced by low­in­come house­holds

Ms Cat­tal­ini said for ev­ery one dollar in­vested in fi­nan­cial coun­selling there was a di­rect sav­ing to the gov­ern­ment of five dol­lars.

Child Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter He­len Morton said her depart­ment had to use its fund­ing to fo­cus on ser­vices that pro­moted the safety and well­be­ing of at-risk chil­dren and fam­i­lies, with the aim to pre­vent chil­dren com­ing into care.

“How­ever, the Fi­nan­cial Coun­sel­lors As­so­ci­a­tion of West­ern Australia helpline will ex­pand and in­crease its fo­cus on metropoli­tan clients,” she said.

The helpline pro­vides fi­nan­cial coun­selling over the tele­phone and a we­bchat op­tion for clients is also be­ing trailed.

Ms Morton said vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple experiencing fi­nan­cial hard­ship could still ac­cess sup­port, in­clud­ing no-in­ter­est loans for fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als on low in­comes or Cen­tre­link in­come sup­port.

www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d439232

Pic­ture: Matt Jelonek

Jacaranda Com­mu­nity Cen­tre chief ex­ec­u­tive Lyn­d­sey Fitzger­ald.

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