Chair’s report – September 2019

Chair’s report – September 2019

It is with sadness and optimism, I sit down to write my final Devil’s Advocate report as Chair of FCRC.I have decided the time has come to hand over the reins to a new Chair and I do so with utmost confidence we will find a person with amazing skills, knowledge and passion to contribute to our organisation.

As I reflect on the past 4 years, I am proud of the significant work of our Board members (past and present) and in particular the unsung heroes who deliver way beyond the capacity of our organisation, our Executive Officer, Dr Sandy Ross, our former Executive Officer, Peter Gartlan and the friendly and talented staff at FCRC. I would particularly like to thank James for going above and beyond in his availability and support to me during my term as Chair.

I also hope I have shown it is possible for an introvert and someone terrified of public speaking to have a voice and make a difference. I believe we have many voices that we need to hear from in our membership, particularly from those who see the broader landscape and are passionate in contributing positively to effecting change for our clients. I would encourage you all to believe you can step up and make a difference.

Over my time as Chair I have witnessed many changes: a change of Executive Officer; changes in Board members; and most proudly building and strengthening relationships with funding bodies and external stakeholders. There are new financial counselling positions specialising in Family Violence, and there has been continued work towards professionalism of financial counselling, and opportunities for our sector to grow through recognition of the important role financial counsellors play in many service delivery areas.

I have also experienced many personal challenges during this time and look forward to the time to focus on my children as they grow into young adults.

Finally, I would like to thank the current Board: Colin Harte, Mark Phillips, Norm McMurray, Cathy Clark, Heather Barclay, Max Smart, Joanne McMahon-Hide, and Carly Baker for their significant contribution to the governance of FCRC over the past 12 months. I also remember with fondness, as I sign off, the person who encouraged and had confidence in me in standing for the position of Treasurer of the Board when I first nominated; a great man, friend and colleague who will always be missed, Tony Naughton.

An Update on the Integrated Services Project between FCRC and SSRV

An Update on the Integrated Services Project between FCRC and SSRV

We are very excited to announce that Social Security Rights Victoria Inc. (‘SSRV’) have secured a second year of funding for the Integrated Services Project, a partnership project between SSRV and FCRC.

As many of you will be aware, this Project was launched in late 2018 at the FCRC Conference. Its aim is to explore integrated service between financial counsellors and social security law experts, with a vision of improving client outcomes by bringing the work of these two sectors closer together.

Through the work of this Project, many of you will have met Bryn (SSRV lawyer) and Leanne (SSRV financial counsellor). Working with FCRC, Bryn and Leanne have engaged and undertaken professional development sessions with financial counsellors across the state, including in Horsham, Benalla, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, as well as inner and outer Melbourne suburbs.

These sessions have not only seen the delivery of up to date training on social security law and related issues, but also allowed SSRV to learn more about the work of financial counsellors and how we can better work together in servicing clients. We are looking forward to undertaking further training in partnership with FCRC, specifically on the following dates and locations:

-17 October in Geelong,

-12 November in Sale,

-26 November in Mildura, and

-3 December in Melbourne

In addition to training and engagement, SSRV lawyers have been undertaking integrated service casework working directly with financial counsellors and community professionals across the state in representing clients whilst appealing Centrelink decisions. We have already seen some fantastic outcomes as a result of this integrated practice, including successful appeals at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

In one such case, SSRV worked closely with a financial counsellor’s client who lived with quadriplegia in a regional town and had $23,000 debt imposed by Centrelink. After providing the referral, the financial counsellor was able to provide on the ground support to the client, including undertaking a financial assessment and drafting a statement of financial circumstances. This was key to SSRV successfully negotiating for the debt to be wiped after going through first tier of the AAT.In response, the client stated:

I’m very grateful and appreciative of the support I got, from the financial counsellor and from Bryn. I only have good things to say about the support I received.

As a core part of our integrated approach, SSRV is also continuing to operate our Worker Help Line to assist financial counsellors and other community workers to address social security issues faced by their clients.We enjoyed this response from one very self-deprecating financial counsellor following a Worker Help Line consultation:

[The Worker Help Line] assists tired and weary and rapidly deteriorating financial counsellors like me who say, ‘what the hell is going on here?’

So, if you are keen to have a further chat with Bryn or Leanne about the Project and integrated service, about training and how we can work together, or if you have a client with a Centrelink problem, give SSRV a call. The number for the Worker Help Line is (03) 9481 0655 with the line open Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm.

This Project is funded by the Victorian Government Department of Justice and Community Safety with funding administered by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

Interview with Kylie McLoughlin, Anglicare

Interview with Kylie McLoughlin, Anglicare

Please tell us about your background:

I have been a Victorian FC for 2 years with Anglicare Victoria, prior to that I was with Anglicare in South Australia. I have 3 grown children, and a super cute 18 month old grandson. When I am not at work I am at home crafting.

What motivated you to pursue financial counselling?

Most of my career has been in financial planning, and I also have a Social Science (Counselling) degree but neither of these met my desires in helping people. When I read about financial counselling I knew that was the path I should be taking.

Please share with us about your recent trip to Canberra regarding payday lending.

I have a client that I spoke to Consumer Action Law Centre about, and it came to the attention of their advocacy team who invited us to attend some meetings at Parliament House on 16 September in regards to ‘Stop the Debt Trap’. We had a number of meetings with a variety of politicians or their staffers, as well as a press conference & other media interviews. It was an amazing experience to see the hustle and bustle of Parliament House. This has given me a greater appreciation and understanding of the effort required to put forward changes that you want to have with legislation.

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

I think every client is unique as they come with their own bag of debts, emotions, and expectations that we have to work with.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

I feel proud with every client that I am able to give some hope to, whether it be providing a budget that helps them to meet everyday expenses through to getting them a debt waiver.

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

Keeping clients in housing they can comfortably afford, with adequate heating & cooling.

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

Not to get emotionally involved with clients, and to ensure regular self-care.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam, but I jump between personal growth books, podcasts, romance novels, or Harry Potter on audio.

What TV show are you currently watching?

I spend most of my time scrapbooking or cardmaking so I have something easy-watching on in the background, ranging from The Good Place to The Flash to Hallmark rom-com movies. I also watch the V8 Supercars when they have events.