Up to 80 percent of people seeking financial counselling on the Gold Coast are considering bankruptcy, according to an anti-poverty forum in Nerang today.
Member for Gaven, Dr Alex Douglas MP called the forum as part of Anti-Poverty Week to educate people about ways to access assistance through community and government agencies.
“People living in Coomera and Pacific Pines are amongst the highest percentage of people facing mortgage and rent stress, resulting in further social and personal problems include relationship breakdowns, domestic violence, crime and gambling,” he said.
“A financial counsellor at the forum said a significant number of people left counselling until they were on the brink of bankruptcy.
“There were a number of hardship cases highlighted today including a pensioner who said he had been directed by State Penalties Enforcement Register (SPER) to cut back on his food consumption by $3 to $5 a week simply to meet government commitments.
“There was much discussion on housing and whether empty-nesters should be allowed to stay in four-bedroom government housing when there is a dire need for housing.
“The consensus was that a request to move by government housing should be seen as reasonable, allowing families to have accommodation that suits their family size.
“Escalating costs of water, power and fuel were also put forward as major contributory reasons for spiralling debt and out of control family budgets.
A senior financial counsellor with UnitingCare Community, Carol O’Brien, and Vicky Rose of Nerang Neighbourhood Centre, said it was important for people experiencing financial hardship to seek help and not feel embarrassed about the situation before it worsened.
“Vicky said if they were short of money that food parcels were aways available at her centre to help people get through the bills’ crisis.
“Both speakers agreed it was important to ask for help so they could keep up with the bills, else this was the start to mounting debt and bad credit history.
“Certainly a food parcel is preferred to getting funds from a credit card or personal loans from friends, which could be difficult to repay and put a friendship to risk.
“Their advice was for people to access help, rather than taking drastic financial steps which might be irreversible .
“For instance, selling the family home maybe a short-term solution that they will regret in the long-term.
Dr Douglas said he was happy to connect hardworking people from community groups including St Vincent de Paul, Nerang Neighbourhood Centre and YMCA Housing with the financial counselling services provided by UnitingCare Community.
“I’m concerned there are so few of these financial services available on the Gold Coast, particularly since the LNP government decided not to fund these services, leaving the Federal government to shoulder the responsibility,” he said.
“The irony is that the LNP government’s job cuts combined with escalating price of power and water has led to significant hardship in our community.”