Bluer skies for financial counsellors after Government funding commitment

FUNDING for financial counselling is a small investment in helping prevent household breakdowns and crime, Blue Sky Community Group chief executive Neville Willcock says.

Earlier this year, Blue Sky and the Salvation Army Morley Corps were each set to lose $121,610 in State Government funding by September 30 for financial counsellors assisting families in need.

Community backlash led the Government to commit $2 million annually over three years for a new financial counselling model funded through the Department of Local Government and Communities instead of the Department for Child Protection and Family Support.

Mr Willcock said it seemed the Government had listened, but to what extent would not be evident until November after funding reallocation was finalised.

He said Blue Sky had gone to tender for the Metropolitan Financial Counselling Services funding issued by the Department of Local Government and Communities, which would be distributed into five zones.

“The $2 million is really $1.7 million for face-to-face services, although this is increased from the initial $1.5 million cut and obviously better than the alternative of the funding cut,” Mr Willcock said.

“The amount of each tender and the number of services to be provided is yet to be determined, with new services anticipated to start some time in November.

“Financial stress is really a problem for so many households, it is |really a small investment in helping prevent household breakdowns or crime increases.”

Community Services Minister Tony Simpson said the Government had worked closely with representatives from the financial counselling sector to develop the new model.

“The Government has identified funds which will be reprioritised to financial counselling, ensuring we can invest $2 million per year for contracted financial counselling services in the metropolitan area through to June 30, 2018,” Mr Simpson said

“With this funding, there will continue to be a mix of face-to-face services and telephone support for vulnerable people experiencing fin- ancial hardship and require assistance to manage their situation.”

Opposition Community Services spokeswoman Simone McGurk said the Government had made a complete mess of the issue, backtracking from the original announcement but still cutting half the number of counsellors.

“The uncertainty and disruption has meant many experienced counsellors will be lost to the sector, whose skills and client relationships will not be easily replaced,” she said.