Even a small interest rate rise could have catastrophic effects on mortgaged households showing signs of financial stress. Early intervention through financial counselling can help households manage mortgage and broader financial stress, but these require more financial counselling resources.
Financial counsellors provide advice to people in financial difficulty, helping them deal with their immediate financial situation and minimising the risk of future financial problems. Demand for financial counselling exceeds supply by a large margin, with wait times for Victorians trying to see a financial counsellor ballooning to over six weeks in some parts of the State.
Consumer Action provides email and telephone financial counselling to Victorians experiencing financial difficulty through the National Debt Helpline. Around 20 percent of callers are referred to face-to-face financial counsellors because they require ongoing advocacy rather than phone advice.
It is getting harder to refer Victorians to face-to-face financial counsellors quickly due to the sheer number of people seeking help. A recent survey of financial counselling program managers in communities across Victoria revealed that more than a third of managers said demand had surged at least 30%, and half said demand had risen by 10 to 29 percent.
To meet the needs of Victorian families struggling with rising costs and debt, we need the Victorian Government to provide funding for an additional 90 Financial Counsellors, to bring the State funded quota to 200 full time financial counsellors.