Getting financial help in Australia

Finder 4 July 2016 NEWS

getting-financial-helpfinancial help. Each one is suited to a different situation, person or need, but all have one thing in common – the best way forward is to take action immediately. To help you take that first step, the guide below will outline a few options to help get you back on your financial feet as soon as possible.

Financial counselling

One way to get help is to have a one-on-one conversation with someone who has the knowledge and expertise to assist you. The great thing about financial counselling is that you can get it at no cost. Australian financial counsellors are funded by the government and form part of Financial Counselling Australia, a non-profit organisation found all over the country.

A financial counsellor is much more than just someone who gives guidance on financial issues. They can truly help to relieve stress caused by debt collectors, uninsured car accidents, unpaid fines and more. Financial counsellors can:

  • Determine whether you meet the requirements for certain government grants
  • Negotiate more advantageous repayment terms with creditors
  • Explain some of your options, such as bankruptcy and debt recovery, as well as their consequences
  • Help you deal with threatening letters from debt collectors
  • Provide assistance with issues such as house evictions
  • Help you organise a budget and your finances
  • Refer you to other services

These counsellors have a duty to keep your anonymity so your identity will be protected. You can call the financial counselling hotline on 1800 007 007 from 9:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday.

Applying for financial hardship

If your financial hardship is due to unexpected costs or a reasonable cause such as illness or unemployment, you have the right to speak to your creditor and request an amendment to your loan contract. Please note that 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.

Applying for government help

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. A one-off immediate payment for those experiencing severe financial hardship.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pension loans scheme. To help those who need an increased income to survive, but whose cash is tied up in assets. Those in this situation can also consider applying for an early release of super.
  • Sickness allowance. If you are, for a brief period of time, not able to study or work due to illness and are 22 years of age or older, but still under the Age Pension age, you may be able to qualify for this allowance.

Are there easier or less serious options for those seeking financial help?

Before you attempt any of these methods, you can try to determine what the cause of your financial problems are. There are many articles to help you get in control of your finances. Draw up a budget, scrutinise your spending habits and get an accountability partner. The above options are there for those of you that feel you need some professional help to get back in control of your finances.

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