16 July 2019
Financial Counselling Australia and the State and Territory financial counselling associations* join with thousands of Australians, business leaders and community groups in calling on the Government to “Raise the Rate”.
Financial counsellors are playing their part in a national week of action asking the Federal Government to increase the level of Newstart so that people looking for jobs are not living on the breadline.
As part of our contribution to the campaign, FCA has today released a graphic animation explaining why Raising the Rate makes sense. You can download the one page animation as a picture file or see it unfold as a graphic recording in time lapse.
People seek assistance from financial counsellors when they are struggling to pay their bills and debts. Many clients are often in receipt of income support payments like Newstart.
In our experience, many people on Newstart are wonderful money managers – because they have to be. But even the best money managers struggle to live on $282 per week (about $40 per day). There is only so much we can do if the fundamental problem is woefully inadequate income.
Media contact: Elizabeth Minter, Communications manager, 0406 588 371
* Financial Counsellors Association Tasmania, Financial and Consumer Rights Council, Financial Counsellors Association of NSW, Financial Counsellors ACT, Financial Counsellors Association of Queensland, South Australian Financial Counsellors Association, Financial Counsellors Association of WA
11 July 2019
Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) has made a formal complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about the Department of Human Services (DHS). This complaint comes after the department failed on multiple occasions to apply its own policy to address exploitative consumer lease providers using the Centrepay bill-payment system.
Since November 2017, Consumer Action has made multiple complaints to DHS about systemic misconduct of consumer lease companies exploiting people through the DHS Centrepay system. Centrepay is a priority payment system administered by DHS through which they facilitate deductions from a person’s welfare payments to approved businesses.
Giving consumer lease companies priority access to people’s Centrelink payments often means that high-cost consumer lease providers are paid before the Centrelink recipient can allocate their benefits to other essential expenses such as housing, utilities or food.
9 July 2019
Financial Counselling Australia notes the release today of an ASIC consultation paper about whether it should use its new product intervention powers to rein in the lending practices of companies operating outside the credit laws.
The answer is yes. And it can’t happen soon enough.
Financial counsellors have been dealing with case after case of a short-term lender using this business model: Cigno.
9 April 2019
A funeral insurer slammed by the banking royal commission for potentially misleading Indigenous customers has rebranded and enlisted a former NRL star as an ambassador.
Jamal Idris, who retired from rugby league in 2017, has been promoting Youpla — a rebrand of the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF).
At the royal commission, ACBF faced accusations of exploiting the cultural significance of funerals to Aboriginal communities and selling low value products, including to children.
12 March 2019
The Liberal National Government last week announced former ACCC deputy chair, Louise Sylvan AM, will lead its Financial Counselling Services Review.
The Government recently announced its intention to hold this review, in response to Commissioner Hayne’s observations about the importance of financial counselling services in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
12 March 2019
Family Violence Law Help (www.familyviolencelaw.gov.au) is a new national website for people wanting to understand domestic and family violence, the law and where to get help.
7 March 2019
People aspiring to become financial counsellors can apply for a full scholarship to study the Diploma of Financial Counselling. We thank Energy Australia for this great opportunity.
click on the link below to see more information.
26 February 2019
Technology is not inherently good or evil, but the outcomes may be, writes Dr Greg Ogle, in this article which calls on the not-for-profit sector to get in front of the issues.
There is no doubt that digital technology is changing the economy and society. Some, like World Economic Forum founder, Klaus Schwab, see it as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the first three being: steam powered mechanical production in the late 18th century; mass production fostered by electricity and the production line from the late 19th century; and computerised technology, from the 1960s mainframes to the advent of the internet in the 1990s).
As digital technology now embeds computerisation in all aspects of life, much public debate focuses optimistically on new technology and gadgets, or pessimistically on concerns with data and privacy. However, there are particular implications of digital transformation for the not-for-profit sector and for community services in particular.
These can be summarised under four broad headings: digital inclusion/exclusion as a new frontier of inequality, data used against vulnerable people, data used to help vulnerable people, and digital technologies changing the services offered by our sector.
A new frontier of inequality.
Digital technology can be considered a new frontier of inequality because as government, commerce and culture increasingly go online (and close off access to physical shops, services and free-to-air content), those who are not part of the digital world will be left behind.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII), which tracks digital access, affordability and literacy/competency, shows digital inclusion is improving, but as the internet becomes the social default medium the cost of exclusion becomes greater – the digital divide gets deeper as it becomes narrower.
The ADII also highlights that the gap between the digital haves and have-nots is substantial and that those with lower levels of income, employment or education, and those living outside the capital cities generally have lower levels of digital inclusion. This is not a simple reflection of existing inequalities: digital exclusion compounds those disadvantages. For instance, with access to technology, training and income, those in employment are likely to be more digitally included. Those without digital access or skills are less likely to get jobs and are therefore more likely to remain economically and digitally excluded.
Data used against vulnerable people
The second reason why digital transformation matters to the community services sector is the potential for harm to vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The datafication of life, where so much of our lives is captured in data and explored by algorithms, raises privacy and surveillance concerns for all citizens. But vulnerable people are especially susceptible as retailers build customer profiles to milk already stretched household budgets, online sports betting creates new money drains for problem gamblers, abusive spouses have a new toolkit of surveillance devices, cyber-bullying becomes ubiquitous and online scammers target the vulnerable.
Those on low incomes are also particularly subject to government overreach. Virginia Eubanks’ landmark book Automating Inequality gives a series of examples from the United States of how using data to automate welfare systems actually backfires on the poor – importing and reinforcing disadvantage, and continuing systems of control that go back to 19th century poorhouses.
Data used to help vulnerable people
The flip-side of this damaging use of data and technology is that digital technologies can make community services better. Digital technologies provide opportunities to make NFP administration more efficient and cost effective, to open up new communications and fundraising channels, and to better target service delivery.
To some extent, this is just standard business development, but there are already innovative examples in community services. For instance, Infoxchange’s Ask Izzy platform and phone app not only provides an information source to direct people needing help to the nearest services, the data collected is used to map emerging service needs and to identify gaps in service provision.
Changing the services offered
Beyond making NFPs’ existing operations better, digital transformation will change the services being offered. It could be smart glasses replacing guide dogs, driverless cars replacing community buses, sensors remotely monitoring health functions, or smart houses locking out violent ex-partners or assisting child protection. The potential for digital technology to transform the lives of people with disability is particularly profound.
In this context, some services which have been offered to support vulnerable people will no longer be needed or will be radically transformed. For instance, if artificial intelligence can provide basic legal advice, then key functions of community legal services may not be needed. This could lead to defunding, or alternatively those legal services might find their resources freed up to do more court representation and policy advocacy. Similarly, when community health or counselling services go online, they can reach remote areas which will necessitate awareness and expertise in cultural and geographic areas not previously required.
And most obviously, there will be a need for services to support people to access and use the new digital technology. Public libraries are already transforming themselves from book storehouses to being at the forefront of access to digital knowledge, while the Be Connected network’s efforts to increase computer literacy and use among older Australians is just one of many programs that are only necessary because of the digital revolution.
We may not be comfortable with all the changes that digital technology may bring, but it is clear that the technology will create opportunities and pressures for transformation in our sector.
However, as in all previous industrial revolutions, the outcomes of digital transformation are not inevitable or technologically determined.
The technology exists in a context and it will reflect and reinforce power and social relations. And that is the point really.
The technology is not inherently good or evil, but the outcomes may be. Unless the not-for-profit and community services sector get in front of the issues and help shape the transformation in all of the four areas above, we will spend the next 20 years picking up the pieces.
About the author: Dr Greg Ogle is senior policy and research analyst at the South Australian Council of Social Service, has a PhD in political economy and researches telecommunications access and affordability.
21 January 2019
Language is a funny thing, isn’t it?
By changing the words of a statement, we can change how we feel, even when we haven’t changed the meaning one bit.
21 January 2019
Do you know someone you think would make a fantastic financial counsellor? Or do you want to become a financial counsellor yourself? Applications for Jan Pentland Scholarships are now open.
Each year the Jan Pentland Foundation makes several scholarships available to people who we think will make a great contribution to the financial counselling sector but require some financial assistance to complete the Diploma of Financial Counselling.
The scholarships cover costs associated with the diploma up to $5000. We invite people from all backgrounds to apply, but applications from people who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and people with a refugee background are particularly welcome.