No-one should face energy distress
Financial counsellors are seeing a real rise in energy debts this winter. This is leading to significant client distress. In response, FCVic is meeting with industry stakeholders to ensure that those in hardship are able to access proper hardship arrangements.
FCVic’s Utilities Working Group has reported assisting clients with energy bills of thousands of dollars. They also report that some retailers have responded with unsustainable debt-payment plans, or worse, directing clients away from hardship support altogether. In some cases, desperate clients are shutting off essential heating and energy use. This is not sustainable.
Polly Bennett, FCVic Advocacy Manager, is working through FCVic stakeholder networks to address these issues. Hardship should never result in exclusion from winter heating, hot water, or ability to cook. We believe that every Victorian has the right to a warm, safe home.
Robodebt Debt Review: Advocacy Hotline needed
The Robodebt Review highlights the critical role that advocacy groups and legal organisations play in alerting Centrelink and all service-providers to systemic issues with access.
The importance of advocates for holding services to account is seen in the third section of the report’s List of Recommendations. FCVic especially commends these four recommendations:
- Easier engagement with Centrelink
- Customer experience reference group
- Consultation with peak advocacy bodies
- Regard for funding for legal commissions and community legal centres
FCVic’s Centrelink Working Group last month highlighted how much financial counsellors continue to find it difficult to near impossible to contact Services Australia to resolve issues for clients. This means clients who are in crisis may wait weeks or months to have their access to social security reinstated, or decisions reviewed.
FCVic supports the call for an advocates’ hotline. We look forward to seeing the implementation plans for these recommendations. We are also working closely with Financial Counselling Australia to ensure the best outcomes for those in hardship.