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14 June 2021
Alison King is the Salvos NILS Project Officer who oversees the new Salvos loans initiative.
Words Lauren Martin
The Salvation Army Moneycare financial counselling service has added to its range of programs a new support initiative to assist women impacted by domestic and family violence (DFV).
The initiative, called Salvos Loans, which is supported by Westpac, will give women the opportunity to take out a no-interest loan of up to $5000 to relocate and set up a new home. Free financial counselling and the existing No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) will still be available as part of the initiative.
Salvos Loans began in late 2020 in response to an identified need for more financial support for women impacted by DFV to establish themselves in safe, secure housing.
“The demand has been huge,” said Ross Norgate, the Salvos NSW/ACT microfinance Coordinator.
Most women accessing the service have taken out loans to pay for costs associated with moving into and setting up a new home, including purchasing white goods and installing security. One woman even purchased a second-hand car.
“There’s also been TV and phone expenses,” said Alison, “because they need a high-tech security system and they need an updated phone and TV for their security system, so it really is for safety purposes.”
A unique part of the service is its investment in wrap-around support for the women being assisted with a loan. Project Officer Alison King helps to connect the women with a domestic violence support worker [if they don’t already have one] and works through the Salvos Positive Lifestyle Program with them, as well as financial counselling and budgeting tips.
“Conversations from The Salvation Army’s ‘You’re The Boss’ program assists recipients with budgeting strategies and also to achieve or work towards financial independence,” Alison says. “Within this program different aspects of an individual’s financial situation are explored through creating new money habits, finding plans that are right for the individual, paying bills, discussing debts and insurance, shopping smart and other money saving tips.”
Paying back up to $5000 for women on limited incomes is a long journey, and each recipient is given up to three years to make the repayments. Alison makes sure each loan recipient feels supported throughout the process.
“[I really try to] keep that rapport or build on that rapport so that they stay engaged and continue to repay their loan and keep me notified if there are any struggles,” she says.
“I write birthday cards for the women and their children. An eight-year-old girl was so excited to have a birthday card because they don’t have anyone – any family or anything – they’ve come from overseas. So those little things really make a difference to the family as well.”
One woman, who can’t be identified, wrote to Alison to thank her for the ‘above-and-beyond’ support the service gave, saying, “Thank you so, so, much for all of this. I really appreciate it. Because of you, my kids and I won’t be homeless anymore, and we can have a better and happier life.”
“This is something that is not available anywhere else at this point in time,” says Captain Brad McIver, the Salvos state social mission and community engagement coordinator, who was part of the development of the new initiative. “It’s The Salvation Army identifying a really critical need and a very practical way that we can respond with the love of Jesus to that circumstance.”
Brad, who sits on the loan assessment committee for Salvos Loans, said that assessing the loans has given him much insight into just how difficult and traumatic the circumstances are around family and domestic violence.
“We have seen that the ability to have access to up to $5000 with no interest is absolutely life-changing. People, perhaps for their first time in a long time, are experiencing freedom in all the senses of the word with an invitation to something more [through the Positive Lifestyle Program and other supports offered].”
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