Chair’s report – July 2019

Chair’s report – July 2019

As we move into a new financial year, we see changes taking place that can both benefit and impact the people we work with. Changes to Superannuation may impact insurances on accounts with balances less than $6000 and there has been a lot of education for our colleagues by industry partners to ensure we can provide the best advice for our clients. These changes were introduced to prevent fees and insurances eroding smaller superannuation balances which can also impact our clients.

The new Banking Code of Practice came into effect on 1 July 2019 which has been simplified and is more accessible for clients to engage and seek their rights in relation to banking products, services and transactions. This includes banks proactively taking steps to identify customers in financial hardship, a clear statement about potential hardship options available to consumers, the inclusion of family violence and access for indigenous consumers in working with customers in vulnerable circumstances, assessment on application of ability for a customer to repay a credit card balance within a 3 years period. It also covers simplified information, protections and rights for small businesses and guarantors. The new Banking Code is a set of enforceable standards monitored and enforced by the Banking Code Compliance Committee.

The Raise the Rate campaign led by ACOSS and strongly supported by our sector has stepped up over the past couple of weeks with many discussions in federal parliament about what it is like to live on $17 a day after paying rent. The answer coming from government is to get a job, however as we know in the work we do this simplistic solution is not a one size fits all.

I often think back to the time I met with a proud woman at the back of the local Salvation Army store to give her a couple of bags of groceries so that she would be able to eat that week. She loved her job, she lived a simple life, however after returning to work following a workplace accident she was monitored and eventually dismissed. This was the workplace she had worked at since leaving school. The people she worked with were her community and due to no fault of her own she lost everything she knew.

At the age of 55 she found herself living alone on Newstart with $40 left each fortnight for food, after paying rent and utilities. She was registered with an employment agency for over 12 months, during that time she had completed a Certificate in Disability and a Certificate in Aged Care. She couldn’t even afford the fuel on Newstart to travel to placement for her course. When I asked her if the employment agency had assisted her to apply for any jobs, the answer was NO. She didn’t understand why they hadn’t helped her to find work, it probably didn’t help that the rural town she lived in, her hometown, only had a handful of jobs at any one time. Yet the same small town had three government funded employment agencies.

How are people supposed to get ahead? How can they maintain their dignity, health and wellbeing while they are unemployed if the system is working against them? I have met with many people who have been contemplating suicide because they can no longer see hope in their situation, they want to work, but on Newstart they have slowly lost their confidence and ability to meet their basic needs.

And then the same people struggling to make ends meet, struggling to survive are targeted by payday loans and consumer leases as a carrot to cover their basic needs. This is the hardest part of the work we do, to work with people who at no fault of their own are at the mercy of this broken system.

To finish on a positive note, the Board has been advocating with Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) to acknowledge the importance of FCRC member participation in working groups, committees and Board. FCRC cannot function effectively if members are constrained from participation. We are extremely pleased that CAV has responded positively to our request that it clarify with funded agencies that participation in FCRC groups can count as funded outreach activity. We understand consequential changes will flow through to funding agreements over the next few months. We are grateful for the positive relationship we have established with CAV on this, providing support to our sector in making a difference to the lives and wellbeing of the people we work with.

Interview with Troy West, Anglicare

Interview with Troy West, Anglicare

Please tell us about your background.

Grew up as the eldest of 5 siblings and spent my youth as a ward of the state and shifted in and out of foster care until my late teens.

I finished school, went to Uni, but didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought about doing a trade and got an apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker, but working at the base of Mount Dandenong in the middle of winter in a cold shed and cold steel was where I decided it was not me and I wanted to do something different. In 1996, I went back to my studies in Finance, where I secure a position with Westpac bank as a securities officer, preparing the mortgages and guarantees. I then moved across into the team that were responsible for the negotiations and implementation of the merger between Bank of Melbourne & Westpac, and negotiations with the Union for the formulation and implementation of the new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), after the merger I took up a role in the HR team, assisting with the transition across to the new EBA and then worked in the Olympic Team, where Westpac was a key sponsor and organised for athletes to work in various branches as part of the promotion of the Games. After the Olympic games, the team was disbursed and I secured a role in the Business Banking Team at 360 Collin Street, Melbourne and then into Asset management, dealing with clients who were under hardship.

Late in 2001, I secured a role as Business Development Manager at ANZ, within the superannuation and insurance team based at level 15 of the Stock exchange building, I travelled around Regional Victoria meeting with the branches and Financial Planners and assisting with guidelines, policy and procedures around the various products and promotion of the products. In 2002 I moved back to Bendigo (my home town), to secure a role as a Financial Adviser. I did volunteer work with St Lukes, with the Foster care team, with presentations to potential applications and also sat on the panel for review and selection of applications and continued to do this for many years.

In 2004 I was approached by a friend for a Financial Adviser role at Bendigo Bank, where I stayed till 2013. I was then offered a position in a private practice, where I quickly took on a Director position, thinking I could have more flexibility around how we helped clients, but for me, it still wasn’t ticking all the boxes around what I was wanting to achieve. In September 2016 I discussed with my business partners my desire for a change, but what that change looked like, I didn’t know. So I was jobless with a wife, 3 children and a mortgage and not sure of what I wanted to do…. But I wanted to do something with meaning not just a fancy title.

What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

I remember this day, I was at the coffee shop, reading the paper after our regular morning cycle (some would call it a race to the coffee shop) and I read the job ad for a Financial Counsellor with St.Lukes and I thought, this is a position where I can make a meaningful difference to clients’ lives with my wealth of knowledge and a role that is more in tune with my moral compass. I applied for the role and hadn’t heard back for a while and thought to myself, well I tried, but again another unsuccessful application, but to my surprise I received a phone call from the program Manager – Tracey Grinter, informing me that I had made it to the interview stage and booked an appt.

Well obviously, I got the job, where I started as Financial Counsellor on the 19th December, 2016 with the commitment of completing my Diploma Studies for Financial Counselling. I feel honoured to work within such a great team, under great leadership and to do such meaningful work with clients, where such minor things can have such a profound impact on a client.

What are the unique aspects of your role or the area you work in?

As Team Leader, I focus on assisting the team to do the best they can with the resources available given the large geographic area, from Kyneton, Maryborough, Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura and encourage them to be the best they can be.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

As a team, my proudest achievement how as a team, we come together to establish sound relationships with clients, respectful relationships with creditors and have been able to achieve in excess of $1,000,000 in debt waivers for clients in the 2018-2019 financial year.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the financial counselling sector?

The inconsistent funding mechanism and the multiple funding streams and duration of funding.

What has been the most valuable resource or advice you’ve received?

Self care, if you don’t take the time to care for yourself, you’ll burn out. Treat yourself as you would a client, value your own time and the need to reflect and debrief.

And now the easy questions…

What TV show are you currently watching?

United States of Tara

What is your favourite podcast?

Currently listening to Fast Track Podcast by Margie Hartley – Executive Coach