Funding cuts prompt concern for financial counselling services

VITAL funding for financial counselling services has been re-allocated by the State Government, but there are concerns it is not enough.

In June it was revealed the State Government planned to halt funding to not-for-profit financial counsellors in metropolitan areas and save at least $6 million over the next four years.

But in a welcome turn-around last week, Community Services Minister Tony Simpson said the Government had identified funds which could be reprioritised to financial counselling services through to June 30, 2018.

Under the new model delivered by the Department of Local Government and Communities, metropolitan services will receive $2million each year.

“With this funding, there will continue to be a mix of face-to-face services and telephone support for vulnerable people who are experiencing financial hardship and require assistance to manage their situation,” Mr Simpson said.

Belmont MLA Glenys Godfrey has welcomed the decision and said since the announcement of changes to financial counselling funding in June she had actively lobbied for funding for Jacaranda Community Centre’s financial counselling services.

“I strongly believe that the face-to-face financial counselling services offered by Jacaranda are unique and crucial for our community in Belmont,” she said.

“Many of the people who attend Jacaranda have literacy difficulties or come from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse background, so face-to-face is the best way for them to explain their situation to a counsellor.”

However, Western Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Irina Cattalini was unsure there would be any improvements under the new service model, considering the Government was yet to prove the previous system was inefficient.

“We maintain our call for the State Government to restore full funding needed for face-to-face services, which is closer to $4 million,” she said.

“The $2m that has been secured, while welcome, will not be adequate to ensure a sustainable service system that meets the needs of vulnerable people in financial hardship.”

WALGA President Lynne Craigie backed the decision to give responsibility for funding to the Department of Local Government and Communities.

“People in the community requiring these services are often at a breaking point in managing their financial situation and to be denied access to services for even a few months could be devastating,” she said.

“It’s important the State allocates the new funding to services across the metropolitan area so services are easily accessible.”

Financial Counsellors’ Association of WA’s Charlie Brown said the association would work with Mr Simpson to ensure the service is delivered smoothly.