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Conversations and care at the heart of financial counselling

17 October 2021

Conversations and care at the heart of financial counselling

Noel Duffin, Salvation Army Moneycare counsellor.

Words Naomi Singlehurst

This week, 17-23 October, is Anti-Poverty Week. Salvation Army Moneycare counsellor Noel Duffin explains that financial counsellors have a range of tools to use that may help alleviate the financial stress of their clients. An essential starting point, he says, is to destigmatise money issues and create an environment where community members feel confident to share their challenges.  

 Money problems can strike at any age and for many reasons, but many fear being judged if they talk about their struggles and all too often wait until they are in crisis to seek help.  

At the age of 19, Jack* secured an apprenticeship with a local electrician. It had been his dream for many years.  

With his limited apprentice’s pay, he would save to buy tools, one-by-one. However, he also needed transport to get himself to a variety of building sites.

One day, he walked into a car dealership and signed up for a loan for a $24,000 ute – with an annual interest rate of 21 per cent. Over the next year, Jack managed to keep up his repayments, but his employer could no longer offer full-time work during the second year of his apprenticeship.    

Reaching out  

Financial counsellor Noel Duffin explains that by the time Jack approached the Salvos’ free Moneycare service, debt collectors were knocking at his door to repossess the car. Jack was under great emotional stress.  

“Once we spent time talking with Jack and completed his financials, it was clear that he couldn’t afford his repayments, plus insurance,” Noel says. “We worked together and considered all options as we negotiated with the lender to sell the ute. Jack understood that he would have a financial shortfall once the ute was sold. 

“We spoke with the lender about what steps they had taken [initially] to ensure Jack could afford the vehicle. After talking to them, they agreed to waive the outstanding amount. This gave Jack the opportunity for a fresh start, and after about six months, he was able to buy a small run-around vehicle.”   

   Giving hope  

  Noel is one of around 85 (free) financial counsellors, plus 12 financial capability workers, who work at about 80 different Salvos sites across Australia. Over the 2019-20 financial year, 13,757 individuals were supported by Moneycare, with over 52,000 sessions held throughout the year. 

“Money is one of the key stressors in family households, but in many families, it’s just not talked about,” Noel explains.

“What they don’t realise is they can call the Moneycare line [1800 722 363], or the National Debt Helpline [1800 007 007], and so often, their situation is not as complex as it appears. We can usually give them tools to lighten the load quite quickly.”    

He says talking to trusted friends, family members, or a financial counsellor can make an immediate difference.  

Life-changing support  

Noel regularly supports older people, who have lost a partner after many decades together, and who had never directly controlled the family finances.  

“I think of Annie*, whose partner of 35 years, John*, had died of a stroke,” Noel says. John had managed all the finances and Annie had looked after the household.   

“Annie didn’t have any confidence in dealing with financial institutions and lacked confidence in managing her own finances. She had been going without basic items to make minimum payments on two credit cards that were both in John’s name. The only asset she owned was her car.”  

Noel contacted the banks, and although Annie was prepared to accept responsibility for the credit cards, the balances were waived. Noel then worked with Annie to formulate a budget, track expenses, and set up deductions, including rent and electricity. ​   

He says: “Annie [really] always had the skills to effectively manage her finances but lacked the confidence. There are many ‘Annies’ in our community.  

“There is sadness, but also great joy in this role. It is so satisfying to help lift the burden. When someone opens up about their issues, and we begin to look at solutions, you often instantly see the positive impact.”   

* Names and some details changed for privacy.

For more information, go to, call Moneycare on 1800 722 363, or the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.




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