Cuts puts lives on line

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Jes­sica War­riner

HOMES and lives are on the line as lo­cals des­per­ately wait for ur­gent fi­nan­cial coun­selling.

Jacaranda Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Cloverdale is cur­rently pushed to the brink try­ing to help those in dire straits who are at risk of los­ing their homes, but a lack of ad­e­quate fund­ing means peo­ple are slip­ping through the cracks.

Jacaranda CEO Lyn­d­sey Fitzger­ald said the agency was see­ing the im­pact of mas­sive fi­nan­cial pres­sure, with one client re­cently tak­ing their own life just be­fore an ap­point­ment.

“We sched­uled them two weeks in ad­vance, and that was the clos­est we could get them in,” Mrs Fitzger­ald said.

“We didn’t know that was go­ing to oc­cur. You can’t forsee the fu­ture.

“The thing is, if they’d been able to get help, even from another agency be­fore­hand, then maybe it wouldn’t have got that far.”

The agency se­cured re­duced fi­nan­cial coun­selling funds from the fed­eral Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices (DSS) for the south-west area af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the hub sys­tem, as well as emer­gency re­lief fund­ing for the south­east area.

But Jacaranda lost all its fi­nan­cial coun­selling fund­ing from the state Depart­ment of Lo­cal Govern­ment and Com­mu­ni­ties (DLGC) in 2015 when the con­sor­tium model was brought in, and has been run­ning an un­funded ser­vice for Bel­mont ever since.

The dou­ble hit in re­duced fund­ing meant the loss of seven fi­nan­cial coun­sel­lors – and new calls for help are far out­strip­ping re­sources.

Lo­cal de­mand ex­ceeded abil­ity by 478 cases from July to De­cem­ber, 2016.

“The num­bers don’t go down. It’s ac­tu­ally worse. The ones who are in rentstress or mort­gage stress, that’s a lot worse. Stop­ping peo­ple from los­ing their houses has be­come a top pri­or­ity,” Mrs Fitzger­ald said.

“The dif­fi­culty is that you know you could help them. And you know that there are things to look at.

“One bank said once when we took it to the om­buds­man, ‘oh they didn’t say they were in fi­nan­cial hard­ship’. Do peo­ple use that word? They said they couldn’t pay the mort­gage. That is fi­nan­cial hard­ship, and it ends up get­ting to a cri­sis point.”

Jacaranda stopped 47 evic­tions in the lat­ter half of last year.

Mrs Fitzger­ald said clients of­ten waited at the cen­tre in per­son for as­sis­tance. “The clients and the com­mu­nity know we will help them, and they will come here re­gard­less. Govern­ment needs to fund places where they know peo­ple go to get help,” she said.

A DLGC spokesper­son said the State Govern­ment recog­nised that fi­nan­cial coun­selling was a cru­cial ser­vice.

“The McGowan La­bor govern­ment went to the elec­tion with a com­mit­ment to re­in­state fund­ing for fi­nan­cial coun­selling ser­vices in the metropoli­tan area. Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on how this com­mit­ment will be im­ple­mented will be avail­able once the state bud­get is re­leased in Septem­ber this year,” the spokesper­son said.

There is also help through the Na­tional Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007, or visit the ‘Man­ag­ing your money’ sec­tion on the ASIC Mon­eySmart web­site: mon­eysmart.gov.au.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d468451

Jacaranda Com­mu­nity Cen­tre CEO Lyn­d­sey Fitzger­ald with fi­nan­cial coun­sel­lor Clarissa Harp and re­cep­tion­ist Kitty Hansen.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.