Volunteering as a financial counsellor
Financial counsellors are employed by agencies – typically not for profit community organisations – that must comply with the ASIC licence exemption provisions for financial counselling. These provisions are specified in the ASIC Corporations (Financial Counselling Agencies) Instrument 2017/792 and the National Consumer Credit Protection Regulations, which enable financial counsellors to work without holding a credit or financial services licence. The conditions of the exemption require the financial counselling service to be free, independent and without conflict. The requirement for no conflict means industry cannot directly fund financial counselling positions, which are primarily funded by state or federal governments, or through philanthropic sources.
While financial counselling is required to be a free service to anyone experiencing financial hardship, its practitioners are qualified professionals, employed within the scope of the ASIC instrument. As professionals, practitioners are almost always paid employees. Sometimes a financial counsellor may work as a volunteer in that role, but whether or not they are paid, the work must be done as part of an agency that satisfies the conditions of the ASIC instrument.
For this reason, volunteer financial counsellor roles are uncommon, and mostly occur in circumstances where an organisation is seeking to build a case to apply for funding to address a service gap. Anyone practising as a financial counsellor, whether paid or voluntary, is required under the ASIC instrument to be eligible for membership of their state financial counselling body (in Victoria that is FCVic), which involves undertaking regular training to ensure their practice meets professional standards.
There are other roles working alongside financial counselling that may provide avenues for volunteer work, such as financial literacy or financial capability worker roles, which do not have the same regulatory and professional requirements as financial counselling.