Facing debt with Good Cents
‘‘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.