Vital helpline given lifeline from City of Cockburn and Anglicare

Financial counselling co-ordinator Colleen Crowley. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au   d445733
Financial counselling co-ordinator Colleen Crowley. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au d445733

A PARTNERSHIP between the City of Cockburn and Anglicare to continue free financial counselling services in the area could be confirmed within a week.

The service is for people struggling to manage their money and pay debts and had been available in Cockburn for more than two decades.

In June, the helpline looked like being cut after the State Government announced it was scrapping funding for the service.

But in a welcome reprieve, the government reallocated $2 million per year for a new model to be delivered by the Department of Local Government and Communities.

The City put its support behind an Anglicare proposal and hoped it would get the thumbs up by next Monday.

Under the not-for-profit’s model, Cockburn would join Fremantle/Melville and Kwinana/Rockingham as service subcontractors in a greater southwest metropolitan financial counselling region.

Each sub region would receive $112,000 annually. But it will cost Cockburn one full-time job and force the City to fund the $8000 gap needed to run the service.

Financial counselling coordinator Colleen Crowley said more than 1500 residents had used the service in the past six months, which highlighted its importance.

She said counsellors were trained in a range of financial areas. They also helped people with mental health issues, social isolation and drug, gambling and other addictions.

“People struggling may turn to companies who have poorly trained staff charging for debt management and credit repair,” she said.

“These companies will put their fees first before mortgage, rent or education.

“With limited options, crime, suicide and violence in homes could increase as these are issues that are affected directly by financial hardship but not addressed by current limited alternatives.”

Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said a recent survey had shown financial hardship was the number one issue among families.

Comments from a Cockburn resident who has used the service:

Q – Why did you require financial counselling help?

“Because I had a huge debt I was unable to service due to a change in my financial circumstances.”

Q – How important is the counselling service to you?

“It’s exceedingly important because I needed to know what my options were and she told me that. When you are really stressed you need to talk things through with someone else and I did not want to put my head in the sand. My experience was not as bad as I thought it would be. I found it really helpful in planning what I needed to do.

Q – Where would you have turned if the service wasn’t available?

“I would have just struggled through. Perhaps I would have tried to go straight to the bank but I am not sure how that would have worked. I may have had to live without the basics. I would have been really socially isolated.