Victoria’s largest network of financial counsellors has released new statistics showing an alarming surge in demand for services over the past 12 months to help manage debt, access housing and pay for utilities in the face of rising food transport and housing costs.
Anglicare Victoria’s team of financial counsellors operate throughout metropolitan Melbourne, Gippsland and Wangaratta and the agencies acting CEO, Mr John Blewonski, says demand has increased due to a range of issues.
“Over the past 12 months, our counsellors have experienced a 66 per cent increase in people coming to them to help manage debt,” said Mr Blewonski.
“Bankruptcy is up 15 per cent and requests for help in the area of asset protection is up 33 per cent. The cost of food, heating, transport and housing have all risen sharply and the past 18 months and we are seeing an increasing number of Victorians who have been treading water for that time but are now starting to drown in debt or severe financial stress.”
The statistics also show a 14 per cent rise in clients behind in their rent or mortgage and a 19 per cent rise in Victorians requesting assistance to pay for their utilities such as gas and electricity. Perhaps most startling is the 65 per cent increase in demand for material aid such as food parcels.
“We have seen a significant shift in the way people use emergency aid and financial counselling,” said Mr Blewonski.
“We used to predominantly see people who had suffered a major crisis in their lives and hopefully with a bit of help they would get back on their feet and we would not see them again. But increasingly we are seeing a group of people who are being stretched to breaking point by ever increasing demands on their wallets and have started relying on food parcels to get through the week.”
Mr Blewonski said the evidence pointed to a growing number of ‘working poor’ who earn just over the welfare threshold but not enough to house and feed their family and put petrol in the car.