Financial Counselling

Financial Counselling

Assistance

Financial assistance has been at the core of BGF’s services for most of its history. The program has evolved significantly in recent times to now focus on HIV medications and related costs, capacity-building assistance such as return to study and work costs, transitional residential assistance for homeless PLHIV and emergency assistance.

The priorities for financial assistance are based on individual needs. Caseworkers also support clients with case coordination, advocacy and financial planning.

BGF is an approved provider for the Energy Accounts Payments Assistance (EAPA) scheme and distributes vouchers to offset energy bill costs. Clients can only receive this assistance if they have a payment plan with an energy provider.

The Client Services Advisory Group provides advice and feedback on the content and relevance of the financial assistance guidelines.

Eligibility

  • Registered BGF client
  • Unemployed or on low income 

 

If you are not eligible for financial assistance, you can still access our other services such as casework support, financial counselling, Positive Futures, and our Spending Plan.

Phone us on 9283 8666 to learn more.

 

Financial Counselling

BGF’s Financial Counsellor and caseworkers work closely with PLHIV to empower and assist them to gain control of their financial situation and develop skills and financial literacy. We know that reducing stress improves general wellbeing and issues with money are the single biggest concern for the majority of our clients.

In addition to our programs, BGF has updated and reprinted a booklet called ‘Your Finances Your Way’. This publication gives practical advice on managing money and is an excellent complement to the one-on-one work undertaken by our Financial Counsellors and Caseworkers. It also provides a list of organisations that can support and advise PLHIV on a range of financial issues. Contact BGF Reception for a copy.

Financial Counselling is personal, comprehensive, caring and tailored to each individual.

BGF’s financial counselling program adds a health and wellbeing dimension to other financial counselling models. The traditional tools of budgeting, debt management and financial literacy address stress by reducing the burden of debt and poor money management behaviours.

Research suggests that stress decreases the CD4 count (an important indicator of the strength of the immune system) of people living with HIV. BGF’s programs build capacity and skills. The resulting improved health outcomes bring resilience and control to managing HIV.

PLHIV continue to face increasing cost of living pressures, credit card debt and gambling. In addition, BGF has witnessed the devastating impact of illicit drugs on its clients, albeit in small numbers. Holistic solutions are needed to provide the best support for clients in these circumstances, with BGF’s staff working in partnership with other specialist service providers.

Our work also extends to financial institutions, Centrelink, Housing NSW, real estate agents, the State Debt Recovery Officer (SDRO) and the Australian Taxation Officer (ATO). 

BGF’s Financial Counsellor is an accredited member of FCAN and has commenced accreditation for the Diploma in Community Services.

For more information about our Financial Counselling service, please contact Craig on (02) 9283 8666 or email craig.doyle@bgf.org.au

 

Case Study

Evan

Evan has been positive for 20 years and has recently been impacted by poor health, which interrupted his employment. He struggled to pay his mortgage, which resulted in his bank wanting to foreclose on his house. BGF’s Financial Counsellor negotiated with the bank on Evan’s behalf. Evan kept his house, paid minimal additional interest and has now found full time employment.

 

Advocacy

Our Financial Counsellor and Caseworkers will advocate on behalf of clients on a range of financial matters. With permission from clients, our staff can negotiate positive outcomes with real estate agents, banks and other financial institutions, Centrelink, insurance companies and superannuation funds.

BGF has developed an additional program in FY 2015 that targets newly-diagnosed PLHIV. BGF’s anecdotal research suggests this cohort requires additional time to seek medical support and treatment early in their diagnosis, which can lead to termination of employment. A range of tactics will be explored to determine a more sustainable way to manage the financial impacts for this group of PLHIV.

BGF’s work and advocacy have resulted in:

  • Centrelink amending their review processes for the management of long-term PLHIV;
  • BGF becoming a provider of SDRO’s Work and Development Orders (WDO) program. WDO encourages people to offset debts by improving personal health and education. SDRO reduces individual debts by $50 for every hour of participation in programs such as the higher school certificate, TAFE courses, and methadone and rehabilitation programs;
  • Significant reductions in interest payments, loan settlements, credit card debt, tax issues and other financial arrangements; and
  • Breaks from loan payments of up to three months whilst clients find employment. Credit ratings are maintained as a result of these kinds of negotiated arrangements. 

 

Budgeting and Planning

Staying in control of your finances and keeping out of debt isn’t difficult but it does require good practices and a little forward planning. It’s no secret that everyday living can be expensive, and unless managed well, those expenses can easily snowball to create a debt that gets out of hand.

Despite our best intentions, there are a variety of circumstances that can contribute to us falling into debt. Whether it’s a sudden reduction in your income because you have had to stop work due to illness, or simply because you have forgotten to prioritise paying bills as a result of feeling stressed about living with HIV, debt can happen to any of us.

The best way to handle debt, or avoid it all together, is to have a budget plan in place to ensure your income can cover your expenses, as well as your everyday living and recreational costs.

BGF has created tools and information that are designed to give practical advice on managing your finances, offer tips on reducing everyday expenses, and arm you with the right tools to avoid debt. 

 

No Interest Loans Scheme

Since 2003, NILS has provided PLHIV an opportunity to build financial confidence and skills by managing interest-free loan repayments whilst living on low incomes. One of the benefits of this scheme is that it enables people who are ‘financially excluded’ to purchase essential and worthwhile items. BGF’s NILS clients have demonstrated exceptional financial management, financial planning and budgeting skills throughout the year with no outstanding debts recorded against any of the current loans.

PLHIV use NILS to purchase a wide range of goods and services including white goods, furniture, course fees, equipment and materials, computers, medical equipment, and annual gym memberships.  An emerging trend is loans for vocational courses that have improved employment skills or provided self-employment opportunities.

BGF’s NILS program is endorsed by Good Shepherd Microfinance and supported by the National Australia Bank (NAB).

The Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service (now Good Shepherd Microfinance) in Victoria established the NILS more than 30 years ago. BGF has been collaborating with them to achieve their goal of building a national microfinance program by providing NILS to PLHIV in NSW.

NILS is also supported by Good2GoNow® which is a program coordinated by Good Shepherd Microfinance and the Good Guys, a national retail chain. Good2GoNow is a national buying service, which offers discounts on energy efficient products and free delivery for successful NILS applicants. BGF is now participating in this scheme, which provides significant savings for our clients.

Client Quote

“They were very much involved in my rehabilitation and settling me down after many years of turmoil and they were part of my case work and such. And I have HIV and so it is one of the first ports of call to get on your feet again. The NILS loans have been absolutely amazing; I don't know how I would have managed otherwise. It’s all the items that make a household a home.”

Supporters