Financial counsellors across Western Australia have identified a range of financial challenges faced by their clients living in the state, a new report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia (FCAWA), highlights today (23 October 2017).
The Understanding Financial Difficulty in Western Australia report surveyed financial counsellors and money workers on their experiences of working with their clients over the last two years. The survey results found a picture of financial difficulty that has increased significantly.
Financial counsellors reported they are seeing problems in two ways. Firstly, traditional problems such as job insecurity and health are widening: 86% of WA financial counsellors said they saw an increase in problems because of unemployment over the last two years. Secondly, financial counsellors are seeing new problems: 91% of financial counsellors said over the last two years they helped people with phone or internet issues that were affecting their financial security.
Further highlights from the Understanding Financial Difficulty in Western Australia report include:
Financial counsellors reported increases in problems affected by mental health (77%) and relationship breakdown (68%) contributing to financial difficulty. Further issues included the take up of unfair loans and financial products (50%), and low education levels (27%) affecting financial difficulties;
- 91% of financial counsellors said over the last two years they helped clients with phone or internet issues affecting their financial security;
- 83% of financial counsellors said being unable to pay a bill is the most common cause of phone or internet related financial difficulty;
- 65% of financial counsellors identified clients misunderstanding their contract as a factor; 44% of financial counsellors identified a bad relationship with a phone or internet provider as a factor; 40% of financial counsellors identified companies overselling products to consumers contributing to financial problems; and 32% financial counsellors identified language or cultural barriers as reasons why their clients have phone and internet issues causing financial difficulty;
- 90% of financial counsellors said a lack of knowledge stopped their clients complaining about their phone or internet service; 83% of financial counsellors said a lack of confidence stopped their clients complaining; and 69% of financial counsellors said language and cultural barriers stopped their clients complaining about their phone and internet service;
- In addressing the problems of financial difficulty, financial counsellors identified financial education (89%) as the main way to help people. This was followed by tighter regulation of loans and financial products (77%), and helping people find employment (74%). Further ways included training and apprenticeships, access to mental healthcare, better IT skills and better parole and rehabilitation services.
Launching the Understanding Financial Difficulty in Western Australia report, Ombudsman Judi Jones says, “With so many competing issues in people’s daily lives and at work, we have some real challenges. In tough times, mounting problems have a domino effect, one problem leads to another, and on to another. Low income or a relationship breakdown for example becomes overwhelming, and this could lead to the avoidance of paying a bill or misunderstanding a new mobile contract.”
Bev Jowle, Executive Officer of the FCAWA says, “We all have a responsibility to support those in financial difficulty. The message from financial counsellors is don’t feel you’re on your own. While the increase in financial problems is a cause for concern, financial counsellors can offer advice, work through a problem or act as an advocate for people who need help in WA.”
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- 71 financial counsellors, financial capability workers, and community workers from all the regions in Western Australia responded to the survey.
- Most respondents have been in their role for over 5 years (76%) and see up to 15 clients per week (74%). 82% or respondents work in a NGO or community group.
- The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman is a free and independent dispute resolution and complaint handling service for residential consumers and small businesses who have an unresolved complaint about their phone or internet service in Australia. www.tio.com.au or 1800 062 058.
- Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia (FCAWA) has been established and incorporated since 1985 as the peak body for counsellors in Western Australia.
- Government and the regulators set policy and regulations for the telecommunications sector. The Telecommunications industry regulators are the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) http://www.acma.gov.au Media enquiries to 02 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or email@example.com The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) https://www.accc.gov.au Media enquiries to 1300 138 917, firstname.lastname@example.org After hours 0408 995 408.
- Communications Alliance is the peak body for Australian communications industry. Media enquiries to Sefiani Communications, (www.sefiani.com.au) 0431 478 558.
- The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation Media enquiries to 0409 966 931 or 02 9288 4000.