SENATOR CLAIRE MOORE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CARERS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES
SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
URGENT NEED FOR A LONG-TERM STRATEGY FOR FINANCIAL COUNSELLING SERVICES
Labor's Shadow Minister for Communities, Senator Claire Moore calls on the Abbott Government to replace short term funding for financial counselling services with a long term strategic approach.
Labor welcomes the Government's announcement today of $1 million overdue funding for 2 years that will go to support the national peak body Financial Counselling Australia (FCA), but calls on the Government to recognise the sector's appeal for a long-term funding strategy.
Labor also welcomes the re-announcement of Budget measures to extend microfinance programs such as the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) and StepUp.
However the funding announced today is cold comfort after the past 9 months of chaos and cuts.
"The financial counselling sector itself has endured a tumultuous and difficult time for well over 12 months, initially due to funding uncertainty and subsequently through a bruising tender process."
FCA Executive Director, Fiona Guthrie February 10, 2015
The Abbott Government cut $270 million from community services including Financial Counselling services last year, and now a shambolic grants process has left hundreds of providers with an uncertain future that has caused incredible stress and a loss of expertise in the sector.
Labor has called for an Auditor General's investigation into the Abbott Government's mismanagement of the community grants program, following the tabling of the Community Affairs Senate Committee Interim Report into the scheme last week.
Financial Counsellors help rebuild lives by working with people to prioritise debts, develop a money plan and provide information about the finance and legal systems. These services are free, independent and confidential.
Any reduction in funding will have a direct impact on these essential services including the closure or reduction of the national financial counselling helpline, which is currently helping 120,000 Australians a year as well as closure of face-to-face services assisting up to 150,000 people each year.
This also follows revelations in February that $10 million a year has been cut from Emergency Relief, including financial support for victims of natural disasters, family violence and the homeless.
The Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program has been in existence since 1990 and increased significantly under Labor in Government since 2008.
TUESDAY, 19 MAY 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: MEREDITH HORNE 0408 599 800