Senior Worker, Hume Community Hub
'I’ve been working in the welfare field for nearly 30 years. I started back in the 80s as a youth worker. I did a fair bit of travelling around Australia and ended up at Lifeline in Brisbane which is where I got inducted into the welfare field. I’ve branched out from lots of things like Family Support Worker with Family Care, and a Child First worker. Now I’m back to generalist welfare and helping people who are doing it tough with their finances.'
'One case I’m very proud of is a young man with significant mental illness, serious schizophrenia. He was referred because he had his gas cut off and was living off breakfast cereal. He had no capacity to negotiate his way through things, so we negotiated assistance for income management through Centrelink via Centrepay. Then we negotiated with the utility provider to find out why he was cut off over a $250 bill. It turned out he wasn’t being provided with the appropriate services and he ended up with a $700 credit and free reconnection. He didn’t have the ability to plan a budget or even do his shopping so we set up a tight budget for him. With a smart shopping program we provided him with visual aids and actually took him shopping and showed him how to avoid all the catches. The best part is that he recently called and said he no longer needed our assistance. By using a small amount of vouchers, we’ve set him up so he doesn’t want or need our help anymore because he can do it himself. That’s the power of what this program all about.
We now have a program in Bright, Euroa and Yarrawonga. I do direct Emergency Relief Funding and use this opportunity to find out why people are living in poverty and why they need that support. Then you unpack all that and you find out what it is they need. The people I am seeing and supporting in these regions are coming out of the wood work with significant problems. We teach and coach people to deal with their finances better, in a holistic manner. We are very sensitive to their issues; drugs and alcohol, gambling, family breakdown, family violence, housing etc. All of this impacts on people’s ability to manage their finances. Our goal is to get them out of the poverty cycle and live to their own capabilities. We use our emergency relief within the capability roles to help people to change their circumstances.
Significantly for our client, cost of living has gone up to ridiculous levels. Every second client has over $1000 owing on utility bills. Mortgages and rates are an issue and for many people not being able to budget means they fall behind in those and that’s where it starts. Unemployment is rising and real wages haven’t gone up but the cost of living has. This is where the pressure is coming from for many people.'