Sector News

Here you’ll find the latest news relevant to the Financial Counselling sector and other related items.

5 December 2018

On the banks

Source: https://www.abc.net.au

There are no roads to the spot where 93-year-old Margaret Kerans’s weatherboard home sits, perched on the edge of the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales.

The only way in is by boat.

A 20-minute journey upstream from the main marina will bring you to her property, tucked between holiday homes and million-dollar mansions.

To a passer-by it might look like a real estate gem. The worst house on the best strip of river bank.

For years, it was Ms Kerans’s sanctuary.

She would make the journey between her home by the river to Fiji’s remote islands where she worked as an anthropologist.

“She was amazing, she was truly amazing,” said her daughter, Marion Rae.

“She was at university as a teacher, then she went off and did research in Fiji.

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4 December 2018

Perth mother on disability pension charged $760 for $175 loan by short-term credit agent Cigno

Source: https://www.abc.net.au

It was her daughter’s first birthday that tipped Perth mother Jayde Lowe into financial hardship.

Key points:
Jayde Lowe borrowed $175 from Cigno and owed $935.50 a few months later
Cigno offers short-term loans of up to $1,000 but is not regulated by the National Credit Act
There are calls for credit law reforms to ensure vulnerable people aren’t ripped off
The 22-year-old, who has an intellectual disability and relies on a Centrelink pension for income, did not have enough money to buy food on February 19, let alone a gift for her child.

An advertisement on Facebook for Queensland-based short-term credit agent Cigno provided a quick fix.

“I borrowed $175 and that’s it,” Ms Lowe said.

Ms Lowe estimated it took half an hour to fill out the online form with her bank details, Centrelink statements and home address.

She said she did not speak to anyone from the company before the money arrived in her bank account at 7:00pm that same evening.

After missing a payment the following month, Ms Lowe was charged a $49 dishonour fee, plus $30 for a letter to notify her of the breach

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4 December 2018

Morrison Government backflips on funding cuts for counselling and charity groups

Source: https://www.9news.com.au

5:45pm Nov 26, 2018

The Morrison Government has performed a fresh backflip on funding cuts, with 16 financial counselling, legal aid and charity groups on the brink of losing their grants delivered a last-minute reprieve.

Many of the organisations feared they would have to cut jobs and community services, after learning suddenly their funding wouldn’t be continued in the new year.

In some cases, they received as little as two months’ warning.
But 9News can reveal the government has now agreed to extend their grants until December next year.

A spokesperson for Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the government “decided to provide funding certainty to the end of 2019” after the discussions with the sector.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher. (AAP)
But he declined to expand on why the government decided to pull the grants in the first place.

Labor has accused the government of bungling the funding rollout.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities Jenny McAllister said it was “a disaster of the government’s own making”.
“The government has thrown frontline services into chaos with only weeks to go before Christmas,” she said.  “This saga has caused immense stress to frontline staff and was entirely avoidable.”
Labor’s Jenny McAllister said the funding rollout was “a disaster of the government’s own making”. (9News)

The peak body representing the sector, Financial Counselling Australia, welcomed the news of the 12-month extensions.  CEO Fiona Guthrie told 9News that workers were initially facing the prospect of losing their jobs before Christmas.

“This gives us some breathing space and time to work through what to do,” she said.

Some in the industry told 9News it appeared the government had cut funding by mistake.

Shortly before the extensions were granted, the head of one of the organisations said “it’s not clear the government is even aware it has defunded us”.

The government has already reversed a decision to cut funding to charity group Foodbank. (9News)

It’s the latest in a series of backflips over government funding cuts.
Around two weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reversed a decision to cut more than $300,000 funding to charity Foodbank, which provides food to more than 710,000 Australians impacted by natural disasters or economic hardship.

The government also had a change of heart after pulling funding from two key groups operating Australia’s national debt helpline, extending their grant arrangments by 12 months.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018

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4 December 2018

Big variance in banks’ granting assistance to struggling customers

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/money/

If you are in financial difficulty and you ask your bank for help, you’re more likely to get it from some banks than others.

A report by a committee set up by the Australian Banking Association (ABA) has found that while one of the big four banks grants 90 per cent of requests, two smaller banks grant just over 50 per cent of requests.

The Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee report, Assisting Customers in Financial Difficulty, specifically looks at how the banks deals with customers in financial difficulties.

In a sign that many Australians are doing it tough, requests by those in financial difficulty to their banks for assistance have increased by 47 per cent since 2011-12. Most of that increase occurred between 2011-12 and 2014-15 and has remained elevated since.

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20 November 2018

Power payment plans yet another cruel twist amid rising bills

Source: www.smh.com.au

Jane (not her real name) had fled from an abusive partner. She had slowly begun re-establishing her life with her two children, but money had been tight for some time. When her daughter fell ill, Jane had to take time off work to care for her, but as a casual worker she had no sick leave. She could not make payments on her debts, including utility bills.

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15 November 2018

Banks have answered the call by customers in financial difficulty, but more will need to be done before 1 July 2019 to be ready for the ABA’s new and enhanced Code

Source: Media Release

Australian banks have financial difficulty programs that, for the most part, meet the requirements under the 2013 Code of Banking Practice, according to inquiry findings released today.

 

The inquiry, Assisting customers in financial difficulty (Part 1), was conducted by the independent Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) and included data from banks and the views of consumer advocates.

Australian banks have financial difficulty programs that, for the most part, meet the requirements under the 2013 Code of Banking Practice, according to inquiry findings released today.

 

The inquiry, Assisting customers in financial difficulty (Part 1), was conducted by the independent Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) and included data from banks and the views of consumer advocates.

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2 November 2018

Progress on on-line gambling regulation in Australia

Thirty-three prominent offshore wagering sites withdrew from Australian markets over 12 months, according to a report on the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

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30 October 2018

Coalition rolls out $73m financial literacy program to help get household budgets on track

Source: https://ministers.dss.gov.au/

The Coalition Government is backing Australians who struggle with their finances by offering $73.5 million in help to get their household budgets into shape.

Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher today announced the funding to support 50 organisations delivering financial counselling and financial competency services.

“Supporting vulnerable people who need help to organise their finances is part of the Liberal-National Government’s broader plan to make communities more stable,” Mr Fletcher said.

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22 October 2018

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has published its 2017-2018 Annual Report today (17 October 2018).

Source: www.tio.com.au

Launching the report, Ombudsman Judi Jones said,

“The number of complaints about telecommunications services in Australia appear to be turning a corner.

“Declining complaints across all landline, mobile and internet services are a positive indicator of recent industry, government and regulator efforts to address the disruption to telecommunications products and services of the past few years.

“We all want to get to the same point, a positive consumer experience where expectations are more likely to be met. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman continues to be committed to reducing complaints, and our purpose and unique role remains clear – to ensure residential consumers and small businesses have access to a free, fair, independent and effective alternative dispute resolution service.”

To read the full report access here

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16 October 2018

Lost his job, about to lose his house – and this WA man is not alone

Source: www.smh.com.au

Ray* is a rural West Australian who lost his job around 18 months ago and hasn’t been able to find another one.

He had to move out of his house and rent a room from a friend, as the Newstart unemployment allowance, which is well below minimum wage and the basic cost of living, left him unable to make his mortgage repayments.

After six months being unable to find a job he began trying to sell his house, but it’s sat on the market for the past year.

He rented it out, but the tenants stopped paying the rent then skipped out not only in arrears, but also leaving Ray with a $3500 water bill.

He’s been unable to get new tenants in.

There’s $135,000 still owing on the mortgage.

He’s now $12,000 behind on the repayments and can’t pay the $2000 rates bill from the council, let alone the $3500 water bill.

In an effort to cover his living expenses he maxed out his two credit cards from back when he had a job, and is now in debt to the tune of $14,000 and the debt collectors are now hounding him.

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