Training co-ordinator Greta Hunter (left), president Sylvia Terakes and manager Steve Snelgrove celebrating 20 years of financial counselling in Lismore.
Training co-ordinator Greta Hunter (left), president Sylvia Terakes and manager Steve Snelgrove celebrating 20 years of financial counselling in Lismore. Jerad Williams

Financial service marks birthday

IT ARGUABLY wasn't a happy 20th birthday for the Lismore and District Financial Counselling Service yesterday, but more a necessary one.

The service marked two decades of helping people manage their financial affairs with a gathering at the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre.

While the service was born during the economic nadir of the 1990 recession, in the 20 years since it has been asked to assist an increasing number of people.

The service has helped 6000 clients during the last two decades. Five hundred of them have been through the doors in the past 12 months.

Despite dodging a technical recession last year, the global financial crisis (GFC) has still financially bruised local residents.

Service manager Steve Snelgrove said one of the recent trends seen by financial counsellors was a changing mix in the income levels of people asking for help.

Since the global financial crisis, it is not just the people who are unemployed using the service, but mum and dad workers who have been hit by the GFC.

“In the past, 70 to 80 per cent of clients relied on Centrelink as their primary income source,” Mr Snelgrove said. “In the last six months it was down to 44pc.”

Added to this, home-grown issues such as poor housing affordability continue to plague regions like the Northern Rivers.

“The cost of having a roof over your head takes up a high proportion of income,” Mr Snelgrove said.

“We're seeing clients who have to pay as much as 70pc of their income on housing.”

The stress of paying for housing can frequently affect the ability of people to pay for other necessities.

Before people know it, they can be in over their head.

“The single biggest problem people have with their finances is they can't make decisions early enough when they get in trouble,” Mr Snelgrove said.

Counsellor Greta Hunter said the current economic climate put extra pressure on people who might not have developed money-managing skills.

“The pressure of our financial environment is really against you if you can't manage your money,” she said.

“We would love to be out of business. But we are now busier than we have ever been,” Mr Snelgrove added.



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