Wednesday, 9 November 2011

GETTING YOUR FINANCES BACK ON TRACK AFTER EXPERIENCING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Crisis Payment
Centrelink provides a Crisis Payment to people who experience
severe financial hardship due to domestic violence and who are
already receiving Centrelink income support. You can be eligible
if you are forced to leave your home or if you remain at home and
the violent partner is removed. To be eligible, you must contact
Centrelink within seven days of the crisis event and lodge an
application within fourteen days of contacting the agency. The
amount is equal to one week of your standard benefit, minus any
supplements. For more information, see:

Advance Payments
If you are a Centrelink client, you may request an Advance Payment
of up to $500 with no interest charges. Find out more about
advance payments ask a Centrelink officer or see:

FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
No interest and low interest loans
A number of agencies provide NO interest loans to people who cannot afford essential items and services. A typical no interest loan is around $800 - $1200 and they can be paid back over twelve to eighteen months.
No interest loans are usually available for people on Centrelink benefits who need assistance purchasing
items such as whitegoods, furniture or medical equipment.
There are other options if you cannot get a no interest loan or need
to borrow a larger amount of money. One option is to apply for a
low interest loan. Low interest loans are designed for people on
Centrelink benefits.
They can be used for personal, domestic or household expenses,
such as buying a fridge, computer, furniture, medical expenses
or house repairs. Loans of $500 - $3000 are available on a fixed low rate to be repaid over three years, with no additional fees and charges.
To find out more about no and low interest loans and providers of
these loans, see the Money Smart website at:
or call the ASIC Infoline on – 1300 300 630

Matched savings plans
A matched savings plan is a program where people on low incomes
agree to save a certain amount of money, generally $300 - $500.
Once you save this much money, your savings are matched dollar for-
dollar. For every dollar you save, the bank or other contributor
also pays you a dollar.
One example of a matched savings account is Saver Plus
developed by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence with ANZ Bank.
This program is designed for people on Centrelink benefits with
some regular employment who are either attending or returning
to vocational education or for a parent or guardian of a child in
school. Call the Brotherhood of St Lawrence on 1300 610 355
or email saverplus@nullbsl.org.au for more information.
Another matched savings program is AddsUp, provided by
Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services in partnership with the
National Australia Bank. Call Good Shepherd Youth and Family
Services on (03) 9418 3000 or visit -
to find out more.
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CREDIT CARDS
Alternatives to payday loans or same day cash advances
Payday loans or same day cash advances (e.g. from companies
like Cash Converters, Dollars Direct or Cash Today) can seem
attractive because approval is granted very quickly, sometimes
with no credit checks. The problem is that these types of loans
can end up costing you a lot of money in high fees and much
higher interest than offered by banks and credit unions, making
it difficult to pay back the loan. No interest loans and low
interest loans are excellent alternatives to payday lenders and
other short-term, high-cost lenders.
____________________________________________________________

YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Hardship policies
If you cannot pay your credit card, loans or mortgage, you can
contact your credit provider and ask to negotiate a new payment
agreement that you can afford or ask for a hardship variation.
A hardship variation is a formal process where you ask your credit
provider to change the terms of your loan contract by allowing
you to:
  • Postpone your payments (with interest added on your loan)
  • Make interest-only repayments for a period
  • Extend your loan period so you can make smaller repayments over a longer period (although you may pay more interest in the long term)
Utility providers also have hardship policies. If you cannot pay your
water, phone, gas or electricity bill, contact the utility provider and
explain your situation. They may be able to arrange a plan so that
you can make several payments over time, rather than all at once.
It is best to approach your bank or credit provider as early as
possible when you know you are not able to make payments.
Many people wait until the debt collector is knocking at the door
before they ask for help and it is much harder to negotiate a
payment plan at that stage.
Hardship policies can be difficult to understand. A financial
counsellor may be able to assist you directly or by referring you to
a lawyer. You can find a financial counsellor in your local area by
calling the Financial Counselling Hotline on 1800 007 007
or checking the Financial Counselling Australia web site at:
You can find out about your credit rating, which is especially
important if you ever want to take out a loan, apply for a credit card
or mortgage or sign up for a utility account (such as for phone, gas
or water). A poor credit rating can result from missed or delayed
payments on bills or debts.
Credit reports are usually provided for free and you can get yours
by contacting a credit reporting agency. You will be asked for
information that properly identifies you, which may include:

* your full name
* your address
* your date of birth
* your previous address
* your driver’s licence number.
                There are two main credit reporting agencies. Their contact details are:

                VEDA Advantage
                Email: assist.au@vedaadvantage.com

                Public Access Centre Dun & Bradstreet (Australia)
                PO Box 7405 St Kilda Road VIC 3004
                Email: customerservice@dnb.com.au
                Phone: 132 333 Fax: 03 9828 3185

                NEED SOME ADVICE?
                Financial counselling
                Financial counselling is a free community service to help people
                who have financial problems. A financial counsellor can negotiate
                and advocate for people who are trying to manage their bills and
                debts. They can also teach financial skills and educate people
                about their rights and responsibilities when accessing financial
                services such as credit cards, loans and mortgages.
                Each state and territory has a range of community organisations
                that are funded by the government and other sources to provide
                free financial counselling.
                Woodrising Neighbourhood Centre has a financial & gambling counsellor:
                Lake Macquarie Financail Gambling Counsellor
                Phone 4950 5108 (outreaching to East & South Lake Macquarie)
                You can also find a financial counsellor in your local area by calling the
                on 1800 007 007 or checking the Financial Counselling Australia website
                www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au/findacounsellor.htm

                Legal Centers
                Consumer Action Law Centre in Victoria 1300 881 020
                or www.consumeraction.org.au
                and Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW Phone 1800 808 488
                or www.cclcnsw.org.au
                Each state also has Community Legal Centres that specialise
                in consumer law.
                See the National Association of Community Legal Centres web site for ocmmunity legal centers and specialist services dealing in financial matters:
                www.nacic.org.au/dirrectory/

                ___________________________________________________________

                Online financial resources
                Money Smart people on low-incomes.provides information on money, finances and services for www.moneysmart.gov.au
                Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services provides programs to help women experiencing financial and other difficulties. Their web site lists helpful services nationwide and is a women-focused service www.goodshepvic.org.au
                The Davidson Institute offers free and low-cost budgeting and finance courses at local Westpac branches. It provides online resources about financial issues and arrangements www.davidsoninstitute.edu.au

                Legal centres can also be helpful with financial difficulties. Many legal centres do legal work that relates to financial matters for eople facing hardship and a number of legal centres have financial counsellors based in their service.
                There are a number of specialist services around the country that provide financial counselling, advice and referral. Two examples are the
                1300 762 207 Fax: (02) 9278 7333
                PO Box 964 North Sydney NSW 2059.

                Credit cards can be great in terms of allowing flexibility in purchasing and paying for goods and services but they typically have much higher interest rate charges and fees than other types of credit. You can end up paying a lot of money and increasing your debt if you don’t pay off your credit card when the interest free period is up each month. No interest, low interest loans and personal loans (even unsecured personal loans) are a cheaper alternative to credit cards, and can offer longer periods in which to pay back the loan.
                _______________________________________________________

                Australian Domestic and Family
                Violence Clearinghouse

                The Centre for Gender-Related
                Violence Studies

                The University of New South Wales,
                Sydney NSW 2052

                http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/

                ©2011


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