Kildonan UnitingCare is leading an innovative response to tackle financial hardship, with evidence revealing the demographic of those seeking financial help is changing.
As utility bills continue to escalate, Kildonan CEO Stella Avramopoulos says the percentage of middle-class debt is also on the rise.
‘Three years ago, 90% of our clients were Centrelink customers – today it’s 70%. So that means 30% of people seeking our help have jobs or don’t qualify for government assistance – yet still can’t make ends meet.’
Ms Avramopoulos says it is more important than ever to intervene early and provide families with holistic support, before issues take hold or escalate.
‘Kildonan’s experience is that when an individual reaches out for help with financial issues, there are often several other issues at play – and getting the right help, early and easily – is vital.’
Kildonan has therefore partnered with a range of businesses, community agencies, the state government and Swinburne University of Technology to develop CareRing – an innovative model whereby the not-for-profit agency is working directly with businesses to try and identify vulnerable customers at the earliest stages of financial stress.
The Australian-first project aims to ‘triage’ financial issues and to facilitate debt relief and payment plans, while also screening for co-occurring issues that could be contributing to or compounding problems.
Participating partners such as Yarra Valley Water and ANZ can refer customers into CareRing – a centralised, coordinated point of contact whereby one phone call can connect people into a range of support services, without people having to navigate multiple agencies on their own.
Yarra Valley Water Managing Director Pat McCafferty said the focus is on early intervention and delivering the programs in a way that is empowering and ensures customers are always treated with dignity and respect.
‘It transfers power back to the customer and assists customers in getting back on their feet with around 80% of customers returning to normal payment patterns after receiving assistance,’ he said.
Kildonan and Yarra Valley Water have been developing the program over the past six months, and will formally launch the CareRing pilot with ANZ on December 9. Further utility companies and financial institutions are expected to join the pilot in coming months.
The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne has been commissioned to develop and implement an evaluation framework to ensure learnings from the initiative are captured and guide its future growth.
Media Contact: Jane Calvert
P: 0403 603 125