Financial counselling cuts come at worst time: Johnston

People struggling to pay bills would continue to be supported through other services.
People struggling to pay bills would continue to be supported through other services.

CANNINGTON MLA Bill Johnston said the State Government’s decision to cut all funding for financial counsellors would be a huge blow to locals facing financial difficulties.

Mr Johnston said cuts meant services provides by the William Langford Community House (WLCH) in Langford would no longer have a counsellor on site.

WLCH helps and supports the local and surrounding communities in the Cannington electorate.

Its counsellors help people struggling with bills or other financial problems to get their lives back on track.

WLCH manager Maria Cavill said financial counsellors provided a vital service.

“This cut will have a devastating impact on many people in our community,” Ms Cavill said.

Mr Johnston said the “cruel” cut had come at the worst possible time.

“There are many people in my electorate who rely on this advice and assistance when they’ve fallen into financial trouble,” he said.

“The feedback we’ve received is that these services are currently taking on record numbers of cases and things will get worse as WA’s resources industry slows down.”

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

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

The helpline provides a financial counselling service over the telephone. A web-chat option for clients is also being trialled.

Ms Morton said vulnerable people experiencing financial hardship would still be able to access support, including no-interest loans for families and individuals on low incomes or Centrelink income support for essential household goods and services.

Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) funding could also be accessed without having to go through a counsellor, which is expected to save the Government money.

“The overall saving from ending contracts for financial counselling will be at least $14.8 million over four years,” she said.

Regional financial counsellors will be funded for another 12 months.