How to get financial help in Australia
Help for everything from emergency funds to dealing with debt collectors.
The only thing more important than financial help being readily available is knowing where you can find it. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, whether it's to deal with mounting debt or to find emergency housing, there are places you can turn. This guide will show you what's available.
What types of financial help are available?
There are a number of different services available depending on what type of financial help you're looking for. These include:
- Emergency financial assistance. If you find yourself in need of emergency funds for food, transport or utility bills there are several charities and community organisations you can contact. These include the Salvos, St Vincent De Paul and Anglicare. You can also visit your local church or community centre to find out if local programs are available to assist you.
- Help in the case of severe financial hardship and natural disasters. If you are struggling with loan and credit repayments, your bank may have already put a hardship scheme in place for victims of the natural disaster so you can contact them. If you need additional payments to assist you, contact the Department of Human Social Services to find out what payments are available.
- Emergency housing. State and territory governments are available to help you with emergency and temporary housing. You may be able to get temporary accommodation in low-cost motels, hotels or caravan parks if you are experiencing a housing crisis or are homeless. You might also be able to get help securing a rental bond. Contact the relevant housing department or organisation in your state (details on the MoneySmart website) for help.
- Financial counselling. If you need financial advice, you can call the government-funded free financial counselling hotline. It is anonymous and your identity will be protected during the call. You can call from 9:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday on 1800 007 007.
Am I eligible to access financial assistance?
Eligibility criteria differ depending on the situation you are in and the type of financial help you are trying to access:
- For financial counselling: Anyone can call up and receive free financial counselling.
- For emergency financial assistance. You may need to explain your situation to the charity or community organisation to demonstrate that you are in need.
- Hardship. You need to demonstrate "reasonable cause" such as a job loss or illness.
- Government assistance. There are specific criteria you need to meet for emergency payments. You can find out more information about these criteria below.
How do I apply for financial hardship?
Financial hardship is an option to consider if you have loans or credit with a bank or financial institution and you are struggling to make repayments due to unexpected costs or a reasonable cause such as illness or unemployment. Financial hardship does not mean you don't have to repay your loan, it simply leads to a change in your loan contract, such as reduced repayments for a certain period of time.
Keep in mind you can only apply for hardship variation if the cause of your financial problems is an involuntary sort and short-term in nature. Dangerous financial habits like gambling or irresponsible spending are not suitable causes.
- Hardship threshold. There is a maximum amount of money that you can claim for hardship. For a contract entered into on or after 1 July 2011, it is AUD$500,000. Any loan amount above this will be ineligible for hardship variation.
- Hardship provisions. The following changes to your contract can be requested from creditors: Your creditors can request certain changes to your contract. These include extending your loan term, temporarily ceasing payments and decreasing interest-only payments.
How do I apply for government assistance?
The Australian Government annually budgets a certain amount of provisions specifically aimed at helping Australians out of financial distress. The following provisions are available:
- Crisis payment. If you are experiencing "severe financial hardship in extreme circumstances", the government offers a one-off crisis payment. To be able to apply for this, you need to be eligible for an income support payment, have severe financial hardship, have an extreme life change such as getting out of jail or leaving a domestic violence situation or go through a natural disaster not covered by the disaster recovery repayment. Get in contact with the Department of Human Services within seven days of your crisis.
- Special benefit. Financial help for those who can’t support themselves or their family and who don’t qualify for any other benefit or support payment. You need to be in severe financial hardship for reasons beyond your control, unable to earn enough to support yourself and your family, and unable to get another income support payment to be eligible. You can claim on the Department of Human Service's website.
- Carer adjustment payment. A one-off payment to the carer of a child younger than seven years old who has had an unforeseen accident that necessitates increased care. There are a number of eligibility criteria, including that you must get carer allowance for the child, you must have a strong need for financial help and the child must need the care for at least two months. Catastrophic events include a car accident, childhood cancer, a fall, a fire or near drowning.
- Pension loans scheme. To help you if you need an increased income to survive, but your cash is tied up in assets. To be eligible you need to be of pension age, own real estate in Australia to use as security for the loan and meet age pension residence rules. You can also consider applying for an early release of super. You can get a claim form by calling the older Australians phone line or visiting a service centre.
- Advance payment. If you receive income support payments, you can apply to receive part of your payments early. You will then need to repay this later out of your payments. You can apply for an advance after at least three months of receiving a number of Centrelink payments. You can apply for an advance online or with the Express Plus mobile app.
Are there other options for those seeking financial help?
If you're looking for more general help with your finances, there are a number of guides on finder to help you get in control of your finances.
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