Power bills, housing stress and family violence drive demand for financial help

Thursday October 19

Soaring energy bills, poor housing affordability and family violence are driving demand for help from financial counsellors in Anglicare Victoria’s Bendigo region.

In 2016-17, the counsellors helped more than 1300 people and helped waive about $450,000 in debts.

Growing financial pressure on the region’s struggling families will be on the agenda today as Anglicare Victoria hosts a financial literacy workshop in Bendigo as part of Anti-Poverty Week.

Anglicare Victoria’s Bendigo regional director Francis Lynch said the workshop would bring together community workers with representatives from the Sherrif’s office, banks and utility providers to discuss how to better support people suffering financial hardship.

“Local families are struggling with sky-rocketing energy bills, with some customers coming to us with debts of up to $2000 each for both their gas and electricity bills,’’ he said.

“Many are also being hit with unrealistic repayment plans, with people on Centrelink expected to pay up to 20 per cent of their income to catch up on their energy bills.’’

The establishment of a dedicated counsellor and growing awareness has seen more people come forward for help with financial problems caused by family violence.

“Many women have multiple debts with phone companies and are often saddled with fines incurred by their former partners, but can’t nominate them as the driver for safety reasons.

“They are also getting into financial trouble by using pay day lenders to buy whitegoods and furniture to re-establish themselves, because they are not aware of the No Interest Loans available, and payday lenders are not advising them of the terms and conditions.’’

Housing affordability continued to be an issue – both for renters on Centrelink and working people who were struggling with mortgage stress.

“Counsellors are seeing more working poor – people who have jobs but are struggling to make ends meet because of poor housing affordability and high living costs,’’ he said.

“And after 23 years without any real increase in their benefits people on Newstart and Youth Allowance are doing it tough and locked out of the rental market in most parts of regional Victoria.’’

Anyone who needs financial counselling assistance can contact 1800 244 323.

Media contact: Janine Sim-Jones 0447 493 123

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