A POWER bill $6000 in arrears, multiple credit cards maxed out, the bank threatening to take the house – it’s all in a day’s work for the team at Tamworth Moneycare.
Moneycare is the Salvation Army’s financial counselling service that is available free of charge to anyone who needs it with confidentiality guaranteed.
The team of three counsellors – Sandy Avis, Marika Goddard and Kim Abel – in the Tamworth office say their clients are from all walks of life, struggling to bring their finances under control in circumstances that are often beyond their control.
The trio act as advocates on behalf of their clients – liaising with creditors, working in partnership with a host of other agencies such as Centrelink and laying out a variety of options.
“Financial problems don’t discriminate,” Ms Goddard said.
“We see everyone from those on benefits, to small business owners, to couples where both people may be on quite good incomes.
“Often it’s through no fault of their own (they get into financial trouble). It’s just life.”
In a world where job security is not what it once was, they know anyone could suddenly find themselves in dire straits, with the latest drought also adding to their client list.
The rising cost of electricity has taken its toll, too, Ms Abel saying she couldn’t remember seeing a client without an overdue power bill – and bills in the thousands, and sometimes from several different providers, weren’t uncommon.
The women have a background in crisis counselling, and those skills get put to use every day as they meet people under enormous amounts of stress who may even be suicidal.
“There’s often a lot of fear ... and people will leave it to the very last minute to seek help, so we really are seeing them at their worst,” Ms Avis said.
The best thing people could do who found themselves in financial trouble was seek assistance early, because there were so many more options available for them.
While being as challenging as it was rewarding, the women agree the change in their clients after sometimes just one session could be enormous.
“Just to be able to tell someone about it, to unload all their troubles, can be a great relief,” Ms Avis said.
Ms Abel said as time went on and arrangements could be made or procedures put in place, they could see a physical change in their clients as some of the weight was lifted.
“It’s very rewarding, particularly when you get a feedback letter from someone saying ‘you’ve changed our life’ and they can sleep better at night,” she said.
The team not only work out of Tamworth, they also visit Liverpool Plains, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Moree Plains, Gwydir, Inverell, Tenterfield and Glen Innes Severn council areas.
A financial counsellor in Armidale services that area, as well as the Guyra, Uralla and Walcha council regions. To make an appointment phone Ms Goddard (0466 772 013), Ms Abel (0429 832 203) or Ms Avis (0456 629 531) or phone the office on 6771 4010.