News & Events

Financial counselling lends a helping hand

December 11, 2018

Lyn White understands the reality of financial abuse. She sees it all the time as the financial counsellor at Emerge where she regularly meets with women being supported in the housing and outreach programs.

Lyn is one of many financial counsellors working with women who are experiencing, or who have fled, family violence in Victoria. They are highly skilled, qualified, paralegal professionals who provide assistance, advocacy and information to those who are experiencing financial difficulty.

Around 99 per cent of female victims of family violence experience financial abuse, according to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Despite the scale of the problem, there are few services available to victims of financial abuse and it can be extremely difficult to navigate the system to clear debts incurred due to financial abuse.
Not so for women arriving at Emerge’s refuge or crisis housing, or being supported through outreach.

Lyn started work as a financial counsellor with Emerge in 2017 after the organisation received grant monies for the position as a recommendation after the Royal Commission into Family Violence that women experiencing both economic abuse and family violence needed to be able access financial counselling as quickly as possible.

For Emerge, having a financial counsellor for seamless referral is a real positive for the women. They sit with Lyn to understand their debt crisis before being given information about their rights regarding their debts.

“My role effectively, is to take over their debt crisis and to advocate strongly with creditors,” Lyn said.

“This leaves the women to spend more time with Emerge’s case workers to focus on their other needs, including housing, legal, medical and children’s issues.”

Lack of adequate income and financial insecurity keeps many women trapped in violent relationships, and prevents them successfully establishing a new home or life once they leave. If they have taken the brave step to flee, they are then faced with money obstacles often that they never knew of.

Among the most frequent issues Lyn deals with are debts that have been accrued because the perpetrator through coercive or controlling behaviour simply passes them onto his partner.

Infringements incurred by the perpetrator using their partner’s car which impacts financially and also accrues demerit points. Fines Victoria have created Family Violence Scheme to support people affected by FV within the fines system. It allows the victim to have infringement fines withdrawn if FV substantially contributed to the offense or it is not safe for them to name the responsible person.

Pay day lenders cash loans, “easily accessible over the internet, the perpetrator can input the details of his partner, leaving her with the debt whilst he gets the cash.”

One of her clients was forced to attend a car dealership with the perpetrator’s male friend to sign up for a loan for a car that she was to have no control over. He damaged parts of the car severely and she was left with costs into the thousands of dollars.

Lyn enjoys working with Emerge, the staff the professionalism and hands on approach creates a positive environment with many programs initiated from the agency to the benefit of women and their children including Financial Counselling.

“I believe it is a privilege to be let into many other people’s lives, any achievements that are won or gained is the blessing that we give to our clients,” she said.

“To see the stress and anxiety fall away and to be able to empower those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community is a welcome reward.”

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