Fac­ing debt with Good Cents

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By MATTHEW DAL­LAS

‘‘Our feel­ing is that bud­get­ing is not the sil­ver bul­let,’’ says Wes­ley Com­mu­nity Ac­tion’s Matt Crawshaw, who is co-or­di­nat­ing a com­mu­nity-based ini­tia­tive to help peo­ple achieve fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity.

Good Cents is a new way of ap­proach­ing the is­sue of debt, through which he works with com­mu­nity groups, and agen­cies such as Porirua City Coun­cil, Ki­wibank and Work and In­come.

At Wes­ley Com­mu­nity Ac­tion, where the food bank is well-used, Mr Crawshaw says they saw a lot of fo­cus on the neg­a­tive as­pects of debt – blam­ing credit providers – but it was un­pro­duc­tive in bring­ing about change in the com­mu­nity. And bud­get­ing ad­vice was of­ten lim­ited to think­ing about ‘‘this week’’, rather than en­cour­ag­ing a mind­set to­wards long term sta­bil­ity.

‘‘We had a meet­ing last year and thought, how can we high­light sto­ries of peo­ple in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances but over­com­ing it? ‘‘ Fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity is the big thing. How can we grow it? Even in tough times, peo­ple can be re­source­ful.’’

What came about was Good Cents, both a course of­fered through WINZ and a wider phi­los­o­phy en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity to look at their own con­tri­bu­tion to their fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and to iden­tify the pos­i­tive ac­tions they can take to re­duce or elim­i­nate their de­pen- dency on debt – par­tic­u­larly high­in­ter­est len­ders.

For ex­am­ple, Ki­wibank busi­ness man­ager Neil At­ta­p­attu says they have looked at churches – ac­com­plished re­source gen­er­a­tors in terms of money, ed­u­ca­tion and sup­port – and how this model may be ex­tended or repli­cated fur­ther in the com­mu­nity.

Wes­ley Com­mu­nity Ac­tion’s own com­mu­nity gar­den pro­ject was a way of en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to look at their own con­tri­bu­tion to their sit­u­a­tion, says Mr Crawshaw.

‘‘So in­stead of say­ing ‘this has hap­pened be­cause WINZ didn’t give me enough money this week’, how about, ‘If I dig in this gar­den for a while, I can take home some veges this week’.’’

The seven-week Good Cents course is aimed at ben­e­fi­cia­ries and part-time work­ers, and the Good Cents team is also look­ing to work with lo­cal sec­ondary schools to ed­u­cate stu­dents about fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The prin­ci­ples of Good Cents are re­flected in three sto­ries that will run in Kapi-Mana News over the next month, start­ing this week. Mr Crawshaw says these sto­ries are not about peo­ple who have been ‘‘ pulled out of the gut­ter’’ by oth­ers – the ini­tia­tive for change has come from within.

‘‘ Many peo­ple are chang­ing their re­al­ity – that’s the point of the sto­ries.’’

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Good Cents course, con­tact 237 923.

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