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New financial counselling service for bushfire recovery

May 12th, 2020

By Catherine Muston.

Since the bushfires tore through east Gippsland at the beginning of the year, Anglicare Victoria has been working as part of the bushfire case support program to provide expanded financial counselling to those who have lost homes and livelihoods. So far, a team of four extra financial counsellors have been busy meeting the demand for financial counselling advice and support for those recovering from the bushfires. Team leader Leonie Cooke has decades of experience in the financial sector as well as being a local from Bairnsdale. Her team offers comprehensive financial counselling to those experiencing financial difficulties or who are financially vulnerable or disadvantaged. Financial counsellors can assist with insurance claims, as well as informing and advocating on behalf of those who are at financial risk. This might mean accessing affordable credit through the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) or empowering clients with skills and information about their rights and responsibilities in the marketplace. For those who have been affected by bushfires, it involves assisting with insurance claims, applying for grants and negotiating mortgages as well as other credit issues. Already, the financial counselling team has been able to make a difference in the lives of those who have been affected by bushfire. One client was only offered $16,000 for the replacement of fencing. However, through the advocacy of the financial counsellor, this was increased to a more appropriate amount of $36,000. Another client lodged their insurance claim in early January and by late February had not had an adequate response. When they contacted Anglicare’s financial counsellors, who were able to follow up with the insurance company, the response was swift and they were able to receive a cash settlement in March, meaning they could get on with rebuilding their lives. Financial counsellors treat the concerns of the client in a holistic manner, keeping in mind their social and emotional wellbeing. Anglicare financial counsellors are able to refer clients to other programs that may provide different types of support for those experiencing the trauma of having lost homes and properties. The team has been working alongside the mobile bushfire support team and, until COVID-19 shut down travel, was scheduled to visit areas in East Gippsland that were affected by the fires. At present, this service is available at 1800 286 260 or