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17 October 2021
Sophia’s life changed through learning essential skills via financial counselling.
Words Naomi Singlehurst
In Australia, over three million people are living below the poverty line. That’s one in eight people. This week – 17-23 October – is Anti-Poverty Week in Australia. The Salvos are encouraging those doing it tough to reach out for help and support. Financial hardship can happen to anyone at any time, and accessing support early is important for a positive outcome.
Sophia* had been in a financially abusive relationship and was slipping ever more deeply into debt. She was referred to The Salvation Army’s free financial counselling service, Moneycare, and encouraged to speak out and seek support from her family. She also gained new money-management skills. Sophia shares her story below.
I was in a seven-year domestic violence relationship with two kids. My partner was very controlling. He would say, “You control the money, you know what you’re doing”, but then he would go and spend irrationally.
We were earning very good money, and I would do everything I could to pay the bills on time, but we didn’t have any savings and were always behind. If I questioned him, I would get verbally abused or hit.
I finally had the courage to leave. I was living with a family member, and my partner was still contacting me from time to time and demanding money. I was approved for a $6000 credit card, and he would make me take cash advances. He even made me get a payday lender loan.
My daughter became ‘challenging’ at school, and so they contacted me. They asked whether there was domestic violence in the home, and I thought there’s no point in lying because we want to get the best help we can.
Soon afterwards, Family and Community Services called and gave me referrals to give my kids and me as much help as possible. This included a referral to Moneycare. I was embarrassed but totally honest with Elyse*, my financial counsellor.
Elyse worked out all my outgoing expenses. She showed me the benefits of multiple ‘buckets’ and taking into consideration the ‘big picture’ in my budgeting. She provided guidance around putting money aside for car insurance and other things in the future.
We had fortnightly sessions and worked out a personal money plan. Her help gave me knowledge and strategies I now use every day.
Because there was no way to prove financial abuse to the financial institutions, we applied to have debts waived or some moved into my partner’s name, but in the end, I had to accept all responsibility for the debts.
Elyse encouraged me to open up to those around me, so I talked to my dad and told him what was going on. When I opened up, my dad decided to get a personal loan to pay out my debts. It was much lower interest, and I just pay the repayments.
I also needed to move interstate to get away from abuse and to keep working. Elyse then told me about Salvos Loans – interest-free loans for women moving out of abusive situations.
I now have the tools and the insight to manage my finances.
Recently, my ex-partner dropped totally out of contact, and all child support stopped. I have had to redo my budget, but I have the tools to do that.
What I learnt from Elyse and the Salvos program was invaluable. I also now understand there is help out there if you need it. So, to anyone in a similar position, help is out there – you just have to reach out and ask.
*Names and some details changed to protect privacy. Sophia’s story as told to Naomi Singlehurst.
For more information on Moneycare, click here.