Financial Counselling Resource
Financial Counselling in Community Legal Centres Report | October 2023
The Financial Counselling in Community Legal Centres Report 2023 written by Carolyn Bond and Denis Nelthorpe raises some matters which legal services might consider when planning the integration of financial counselling. The Foundation has funded a number of community legal centre’s nationally to provide financial counselling for family violence victims, vulnerable private tenants and first nations persons.
The Paper is a result of the authors’ experience and conversations with lawyers, financial counsellors and others in the sector to better understand complexities of successful integration of community professionals working within community legal centres.
Grants for Family Violence Financial Counsellors
Family Violence Financial Counselling Project May 2020-June 2023
The Financial Counselling Foundation provided grants totalling $3.9million over three years to fund 10 specialist financial counsellors trained to deal with clients experiencing family Violence.
The grants for three years went in the main to women’s legal services across Australia where up to 95 percent of clients experience domestic family violence.
During the three years over 4,000 women with highly complex financial and other needs received financial counselling casework.
The majority of the women were low income, sole parents or lone persons and at least half had experienced economic abuse. Issues included utility arrears, private rental and mortgage stress, debt including credit cards and PAYG, over reliance on BNPL schemes and more recently the additional impact of the cost of living.
Responses from the financial counsellors included debt settlement or waivers, links to hardship programs and victims compensation or escaping violence payments, referrals to the legal team and other support agencies, and encouragement of self advocacy.
Social Impact Evaluation I June 2022
The Social Policy Research Centre University of NSW was funded $72,273, including $12,273 from the Financial Counselling Foundation and $60,000 from the Ecstra Foundation, for a social impact evaluation of the family violence financial counselling services across 5 of the ten funded agencies.
The Evaluation Report assessed the impact of financial counselling service on clients’ financial stability and wellbeing. It also examined if clients benefitted from working with other professionals such as lawyers within the service, and the impact on the organisation through providing financial counselling.
The evaluation found that financial counselling helped women to better understand their needs and how their their confidence and capability with financial matters improved. Integrating the financial counselling with legal and other supports enabled women to address a more comprehensive range of challenges. Click on "Read more" to access the full Evaluation Report.
Financial Counsellor Wellbeing
Financial Counsellor Wellbeing | September 2020 - 2022
Two grants from the Foundation were made to Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) on behalf of the State and Territory financial counselling associations to engage a not-for-profit employee assistance provider, to support the wellbeing of financial counsellors across Australia. Grants of $19,580 in 2020 and $25,000 in 2021 engaged Access Employee Assistant Program (EAP) to provide individual counselling and online training.
The grants were in response to the recognition of the stress that can impact financial counsellors in response to clients experiencing trauma due to financial stress, and the impact of isolation from staff working from home during COVID-19. In total 36 individuals accessed the counselling service over numerous sessions to address issues from anxiety to career concerns.
Access EPA also ran online training and a total of 18 sessions which covered six topics ranging from ‘managing stress’ and ‘constructive conversations’, to the most popular ‘verbal self-defence’. The feedback was positive although some suggested the training could have been more tailored for financial counsellors.
Note: FCA did not receive any funding for administering this project.
Assisting First Nations People
First Nations Outreach | July 2019 - 2022
The Foundation provided funding of $10,000 per annum for three years to 21 organisations that work predominantly with First Nations people in regional and remote Australia (total funding of $630,000). Two thirds of the grants are complete and the remaining third have been extended for 6 -12 months due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, access constrains during the wet season, and the impact of COVID-19 on remote communities.
The grants support the costs associated with outreach services such as travel, accommodation, materials and in some case staff and training. Some of the key findings to date are:
the limited understanding by communities of their entitlements, Government procedures and financial literacy;
the lack of IT access and the importance of demonstrating in person, makes it hard to make lasting changes without working on country;
the importance of face-to-face delivery is the most effective way to engage with communities despite often being difficult and costly; and
the benefits of accessing remote communities in partnership with other organisations.
Assisting People in Prison
Prison Research Project | November 2019 - June 2022
The Fostering Financial Stability for People in Prison Project sought to research an effective way to provide financial counselling support to people in prisons and to stop the financial harm that is often a consequence of being incarcerated.
The Project reviewed the successes and failures of existing projects, mapped corrections systems nationally, conducted interviews and workshops with people incarcerated, prison staff, industry and financial counsellors working in the correctional environment.
The Fostering Financial Stability for People in Prison Final Report was released in November 2022 and provides insights and recommendations to inform better practice policies to support people in prison. The research illustrated how integral the essential services (including financial, telecommunications and utilities) can be in either supporting or alternatively causing additional harm for people going through the justice system.
This project was auspiced through Financial Counselling Australia who appointed Thriving Communities Partnership to deliver the project. Funding was for $200,000 over 18 months. Note: FCA did not received any funding for administering this project.
Grants for Domestic and Family Violence Financial Counsellors
Domestic and Family Violence Financial Counsellor Grant for Zahra Foundation | September 2020
A grant of $100,000 has been made to the Zahra Foundation to provide financial counselling to women impacted by Domestic Family Violence (DFV) for the next two years. The grant will supplement other funding to ensure Zahra Foundation can continue to provide a financial counselling service.
Eighty percent of Zahra Foundation’s budget is received through fundraising, but fundraising has been curtailed due to the impacts of the South Australian bushfires and COVID-19. The grant follows the funding earlier this year of 10 full-time specialist DFV financial counsellor positions around Australia for three years. This brings the total grants for this purpose to over $4 million.
Funding for the grant to the Zahra Foundation is from the Financial Counselling Foundation.
Specialist Financial Counselling
Australian Defence Force Personnel | March 2020
The Foundation has provided a grant of $130,000 to the Bravery Trust to deliver a financial counselling service to current and former Australian Defence Force personnel. The funds came from the Foundation.
Bridging Funding for Agencies Whose Funding was Unexpectedly Withdrawn
Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia (FCAWA) | November 2019
Financial counsellors regularly require access to legal support and information to work out the best strategies for advocating for their clients. The Foundation has provided a grant to FCAWA of $130,000 for 12 months so it can continue to employ a solicitor to support financial counsellors in Western Australia.
The work will include:
support to financial counsellors including through professional development via webinars and face to face training
information papers and guidance for financial counsellors on relevant topics and
legal advice to financial counsellors as necessary.
Specialist services | September 2019
A number of agencies providing specialist financial counselling to particularly vulnerable groups lost federal government funding in 2018. The Foundation has provided funding of $130,000 to each of five agencies for 12 months to enable this valuable work to continue and give the agencies time to adjust.
The services to receive support are: Prisoners Legal Service (Qld), Centacare Catholic Country SA, Odyssey House (Vic), VincentCare Victoria, and Southern Youth & Family Services (NSW).
Centacare Catholic Country SA will use the money for face to face counselling case work, focusing on outreach and services to people in remote South Australia, particularly Frist Nation communities.
Odyssey House (Vic) will use the funding to continue delivering face to face financial counselling to people with issues arising from alcohol and drug addictions.
Vincent Care Victoria will use the grant money to continue delivering face to face financial counselling casework, with a focus on assisting those people at risk of, or already experiencing, homelessness.
Southern Youth & Family Services (NSW) will use the grant to deliver face to face financial counselling casework, with a focus on assisting young people, particularly those at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.
Prisoners Legal Service will use the grant to deliver face to face financial counselling casework, with a focus on assisting people in prison or people who have recently been released from prison.
Assisting First Nations People
Phone Financial Counselling Scoping project | September 2019
Financial counsellors have long recognised that First Nations people, particularly those located in regional and remote areas, are not receiving the support that other areas of Australia do. The Foundation has provided funding to research the need for financial counselling to help fill those gaps, looking particularly at a telephone service.
This research project involved interviews with key stakeholders and a workshop. Stakeholders involved included Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (Qld), Bara Barang Aboriginal Corporation (NSW), financial counsellors who work in remote communities, Financial Rights Legal Centre (NSW), which runs Money Mob Debt Help, a telephone service providing legal advice and assistance, and the Consumer Action Law Centre (Vic) which runs the Koorie Help Line. The project gathered a wealth of information and experience. Additional work will be done to refine a service delivery model.
This grant was auspiced through Financial Counselling Australia who engaged a consultant to run the project. The total amount is $35,000. Note: FCA has not received any funding for administering this project.
Victorian Bushfires | May 2020
The Foundation provided a grant of $112,818.54 to Anglicare St Luke’s in Bendigo to go towards employing a financial counsellor to support people in the region affected by the 2019-20 bushfires.
Townsville Floods | April 2019
Townsville experienced a serious flood event in February 2019, affecting a large number of people and businesses. The Foundation is providing funding for two financial counselling positions for two years to help in the recovery effort ($520,000 in total). The positions are with UnitingCare Queensland and the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network. The funds came from a donation from ANZ ($50K), with additional funds from the Foundation.
Rural Financial Counselling | November 2018
Large parts of Australia are in drought. Funds of $520,000 have been shared between five rural financial counselling services to provide financial counselling to small businesses affected by the downturn. These rural financial counselling services are in Cooma, Dubbo, Roma, Longreach and Bairnsdale. The funds came from a $500K donation from ANZ, as well as the Foundation's funds.
Specialist Financial Counselling
National Debt Helpline | April 2019 and February 2020
The National Debt Helpline is the phone financial counselling service. It is operated by 10 different organisations around Australia. Funding of $1,000,000 has been shared proportionately between them (based on call volumes) for 12 months (1 July 2019 - 30 June 2020). This will allow the services to continue current staffing levels. Without this funding, staff numbers would have reduced as previous funding from an ASIC community benefit payment was exhausted. Some funds have also been provided to Financial Counselling Australia to promote the NDH website. Call volumes to the NDH are increasing year on year.
A second 12 months of funding was approved in February 2020 to cover 1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021.
knowmore legal service | September 2018
Funding of $540,000 per annum for two years has been provided to knowmore legal service to employ financial counsellors. knowmore legal service is a community legal centre set up to assist victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The service was established in 2013 in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.