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Thursday 24 Jan 2019

Chair's report - January 2019

By: Julie Barrow

Following a turbulent end to 2018 with confusion and impact surrounding the DSS funding there was a moment of light for our clients and profession when one of our esteemed colleagues, Sandra Blake presented alongside Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) to the Senate Inquiry into Credit and Financial Services (Senate Inquiry TOR).

I would like to acknowledge Sandra for her passion, particularly around this issue that has raised awareness of the impact on our clients from these predatory products.

The issue of predatory lending has been a hot issue for many years now and thanks to the ongoing collaborations keeping this issue at the table, led by Consumer Action Law Centre, a Senate inquiry was finally announced. The final report is due to be submitted to the Economic References Committee by 22nd February 2019, we look forward to reading the recommendations.

The work on both this inquiry and the Financial Services Royal Commission has further highlighted the desperate need for increased funding for Financial Counselling. This has been echoed in submissions to the Senate Inquiry (Submissions) by FCA (a joint submission by all States and Territories), Professor Ian Ramsey, Harold Professor of Commercial Law at Melbourne University, Consumer Action Law Centre, the Australian Banking Association and many others.

I feel the most revealing statistic in a recent report released by FCA in December was the current estimate of only 500 full time positions funded for financial counselling across our nation. This really highlights the limited capacity we have to meet expectations and continued expansion specialty areas within our work. All State and Territory member bodies are working with FCA in the call to double this amount to 1000 FTE to enable us to keep up with the demand.

Anna Bligh, AC, CEO of the Australian Banking Association wrote “Financial counsellors are an essential social service….We recognise the importance of the work financial counsellors do in helping people through incredibly challenging times often due to a change in their circumstances, such as loss of employment or relationship breakdown, or health related issues.”(Australian Banking Association submission 40, Senate Inquiry).

As we move into 2019, we will continue to work collaboratively to call for increased funding to provide accessible services to the people we work with and to support our financial counsellors in the valuable work they do.