Media Release: Another Day, Another Backflip - Funding Chaos Hits Debt Helpline
7.00pm | November 14, 2018
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER BACKFLIP: FUNDING CHAOS HITS DEBT HELPLINE
The Government has back flipped on another of its uncaring and illogical funding decisions.
Reports of the Government’s backflip on National Debt Helpline funding have exposed its chaotic management of social services.
The National Debt Helpline provides free financial counselling to Australians who are facing financial hardship. This is a vital service particularly at a time where trust in financial institutions is so low.
In recent weeks, Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher made major last minute funding changes to the National Debt Helpline service.
Not-for-profit organisations that deliver services in NSW and Victoria were told their Commonwealth funding would be scrapped and allocated to another provider.
However the decision ignored the existing funding arrangements, which see the majority of funding for these services provided by the states.
In a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Credit and Financial Services targeted at Australians at risk of Financial Hardship the Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Rights Legal Centre raised concerns that they would no longer be able to answer calls on the helpline number because it is owned by the federal government.
“Should the 1800 007 007 number be directed to those new organisations, they will be receive in the vicinity of 20,000 – 30,000 calls each year in each state. The DSS funding will only allow staffing of around 2 to 2.5 full time equivalent positions. The existing NSW and Victorian services have between 8 and 10 full time equivalent positions. It will not be possible for the new agencies to meet the demand solely on the funding provided by DSS.”
The Minister has only now intervened, weeks after telling organisations that their funding will be cut.
It is still unclear if the Government is restoring funding and how they intend to provide certainty to the sector.
This is a problem of the Government’s own making.
This constant back flipping on funding decisions is no way to run a portfolio.
Either the Minister doesn’t know or he doesn’t care about the services delivered by his portfolio.
This is the second time in a week that Mr Fletcher has bungled a decision by making significant changes to funding for services at short notice, just before Christmas.
Two months’ notice to service providers of changes to their funding is completely unacceptable.
After four ministers in five years, it is time for this Government to take social services more seriously.
Labor is calling on the Government to resolve the continued funding chaos inside the social services portfolio.
WEDNESDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: NATHAN ROBERTSON 0436 632 388