The fact that we need financial counsellors says it all Australians are in debt, up to our ears and over our heads. And one local financial counsellor, Steve Snelgrove, has decided to do something about it.
Steve, who is a senior financial counsellor at the Lismore & District Financial Counselling Service, has produced a DVD Would you credit it? that offers advice on debt and bankruptcy in a simple, informative way, using both talking heads and dramatisations of local people struggling with their finances.
It is the first of its kind in Australia, and 1000 copies of the DVD will be sent to community centres, financial counselling services and public libraries so that people can access the information for free.
Australians are heavily in debt, said Steve, and I made the DVD because I really saw that there was a big gap in the market for audio/visual material.
Steve said the impact of debt and bankruptcy was devastating on families and communities, and people needed to know that help and advice was available before it became catastrophic.
Kat Lane, principal solicitor at the Consumer Credit Legal Centre in Sydney, who visited Lismore last week for the DVD launch, said the credit hotline received 600-800 calls every month from people drowning in debt.
People are in debt over their heads because of irresponsible lending, because of home loans they cant afford, because of credit cards, said Kat. But the main blame falls on the lending bodies. We rely on them to assess us in a responsible way. Responsible lending is their job and the evidence is there someone is not doing their job properly. They have failed us as consumers and legislation is needed to ensure responsible lending.
Kat also believes there is not enough help for people in financial strife and that we need to take responsibility for those temporarily in financial difficulty.
We have to offer a sensible solution to help these people get back on their feet, said Kat. There is a massive social cost to debt and bankruptcy and the key is getting help at the right time before you really start to drown.
Steve said that in the last year there has been a massive increase in the number of hits to the Financial Counselling Services website (www.financialcounselling.org.au) with people accessing information on how to manage their financial debt.
People just need the tools, and the more tools they have to help them, the less likely they will run into serious financial trouble.
If you require urgent financial counselling information phone the emergency Credit and Debt Hotline on 1800 808 488.
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