The Financial Counsellor’s Association of Queensland (FCAQ) welcomes the Palaszczuk Government’s new Financial Resilience Program in the 2016/17 Budget. We look forward to working with the state government to understand how the Queensland financial counselling sector can inform the new program and its rollout, based on our thirty-seven years of experience in addressing financial hardship and building financial resilience for individuals, families and communities across Queensland.
Financial Counselling is an important service experiencing high demand in Queensland. “As a sector committed to financial inclusion and financial counselling support for all Queenslanders, we are looking forward to ensuring that financial counselling is an important component of the new Financial Resilience Program,” said Jon O’Mally, President of the Financial Counsellor’s Association of Queensland. “The FCAQ is pleased to see the Queensland Government’s commitment to addressing financial hardship and inclusion for all Queenslanders through financial counselling, given that Queensland currently holds the highest insolvency rates per capita,” said Mr. O’Mally.
Spikes in personal insolvencies are evident in regional locations where job losses are contributing to financial hardship. In Townsville, the number of debtors increased by 7.8 per cent in the March 2016 quarter (compared to the December 2015 quarter) and a current 10.4% unemployment rate, an increase by 1.6% over the past 12 months. With recent employment cuts in the mining and energy sectors, high insolvency rates and drought-affected areas throughout 85% of the state, financial counselling services have never been more needed.
Financial counsellors in Queensland meet people where they are at: they have strong understanding of the lived experience of financial difficulty in the community, and tailor their response to the position and needs of their clients. Financial counsellors have built strong relationships with the community in Queensland over thirty-seven years, and are a conduit for community cohesion through a ‘combination of advocacy, empowerment, education and service linkage functions’, underpinning a ‘community development approach and social justice principles of financial counselling.’
At present, there are only 34 full time equivalent financial counsellors to respond to financial hardship in Queensland, compared to 170 in New South Wales and 150 in Victoria.
The FCAQ will continue to work and co-ordinate with Government and the community services sector to ensure that the increase in demand from Queenslanders experiencing financial stress is met.