This stage into the COVID-19 pandemic we are hearing a lot on the Affordable SA Helpline about people struggling with deferred debt.
ABC Radio's Afternoon presenter Sonia Feldhoff spoke recently to Karyn Hicks, a Financial Counsellor for The Salvation Army's Moneycare program about deferred debt and what is of greatest concern for renters in managing their situation. Listen to the interview below.
Like all deferred debt, such as credit cards, loans and even current rental payment deferrals with your landlord during the pandemic, there comes a time to make good, to pay off your debt or rent owed. If people have been utilising extra payments from the Government to pay off some of their debt and rent then you may have this in hand but if not you may have been accumulating debt at a fast rate that could see you with an even bigger problem in the coming months as things return to some form of normality.
If you think you are headed for financial woe or are starting to see the signs of trouble ahead with debt seeking early help from a [financial counsellor](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services) might be the best thing to do. Financial Counselling is free, confidential and independent. They are here to help you and can help you get back on your feet with a money plan.
People are managing this major crisis reasonably well but some are experiencing financial difficulty and feeling pressure from creditors or landlords as they struggle to manage or are entering into unreasonable payments that they simply cannot achieve. Karyn says that "if you are feeling pressured there are avenues to take such as seeking help from a financial counsellor or assistance from TIAS", the Tenants Information and Advisory Service. [TIAS](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/home-purchase-and-rent/tenants-information-and-advisory-service-tias) is also a free and independent service, and assists people to maintain their tenancies in private rental, community housing, public housing, housing cooperatives and boarding houses.
[TIAS](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/home-purchase-and-rent/tenants-information-and-advisory-service-tias) provides advice, guidance and advocacy regarding:
- Bond disputes
- Property maintenance
- SACAT processes
- Rent arrears
- SA Housing authority processes and appeals
- Community housing processes and appeals
They are here to help South Australians so they get the [Affordable SA](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/) thumbs up.
See the Affordable SA App (free to download) or website for more information about the help that is available to South Australians such as financial counsellors from Moneycare 1800 722 363, the [National Debt Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/national-debt-helpline) 1800 007 007 or if you need help negotiating problems with your rent TIAS, the Tenant Information & Advisory Service 1800 060 462.
The first half of this year has undoubtedly knocked us all for six.
In one way or another, our lives have changed.
4 months ago, more people were employed, more small businesses were open, people had holidays booked, athletes were getting ready for the Olympics, couples were planning their weddings, a lot less people worked from home, there were more airplanes in the sky and you didn’t have to worry about whether or not you could buy toilet paper.
We have all seen great change in our day to day lives and that takes a fair bit of resilience.
With COVID-19 having a significant impact on people’s [mental health](https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-04-30/coronavirus-mental-health-second-wave-impacts-of-pandemic/12197930), it is important now more than ever that we look out for one another.
Today, June 1st is ‘Say Something Nice Day’.
So take a moment to say something nice, not just to others but also to yourself.
Be kind to yourself and those around you.
Check up on your friends, neighbours and family members to see how they are doing.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, see the attached link to the COVID-19 Virtual Support Network
As the days pass with no new cases and with restrictions starting to ease, we find ourselves slowly emerging from the surreal fog that was COVID-19.
But what happens when the fog clears and things return to 'normal'?
What is going to happen to the [40,000 South Australians](https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-14/coronavirus-claims-sa-jobs-as-unemployment-rate-jumps/12247474) that have lost their jobs due to COVID-19?
Many South Australians are coming face to face with the harsh reality of financial hardship - something that they may have never experienced before. Ultimately, things that were affordable 3 months ago may no longer be affordable.
As the restrictions are lifted, the opportunity to spend money increases. Therefore if your financial situation has changed due to COVID-19, it is important to stay on top of your finances during this time.
- What are your 'essential' living expenses and 'non-essential' living expenses?
- Are you able to afford your 'essential' living expenses? If not, have you discussed hardship options with your credit and utility providers?
- Are there any 'non-essential' living expenses that you may need to think about, due to the financial changes brought on by COVID-19?
If you feel like you are being engulfed by the fog of financial hardship and you can't see a way out, don't stress... there are people out there who you can talk to.
A Financial Counsellor can look at your overall financial situation and provide you with your options and can advocate and negotiate on your behalf if need.
Call the [Affordable SA Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) on 1800 025 539 to book an appointment to speak to a free Financial Counsellor or search for [Financial Counselling Services](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services)on the Affordable SA App.
For more information and services, visit the attached link to the Money & Finances section of Affordable SA.
ConnectEd provides information and advice to vulnerable members of the community on how to better understand and manage their household energy, water and telecommunications services. This is extended in the current context to particularly vulnerable cohorts such as international students and temporary visa holders.
The ConnectEd program at UCWB is able to offer assistance via Zoom, delivering information sessions or small workshops to the community. Topics such as:
- Understanding bills and reading meters.
- Saving energy and water.
- Calculating running costs.
- Concessions, hardship and assistance available.
- Plans, discounts and getting a better deal.
- Solar, batteries and new technologies
To book an online information session email ConnectEd@ucwb.org.au stating your preferred date/time and we will contact you with a link and instructions how to access Zoom. Duration: approx. 1 hour with the possibility of follow-up sessions as required.
Check out [ConnectED](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities/connected-utilities-literacy) for other great ways to save on your Utilities bills and around the home.
Here on the Helpline, we hear the following phrases quite a lot:
‘I haven't been opening my mail'
‘I just put my head in the sand and hoped it would all go away’
Do you have some mail on your kitchen table that you have been avoiding? Amongst the take-away menus and supermarket catalogues, you may have a utility bill or two, a bank statement, a disconnection notice, a demand notice or even a default notice.
Before you know it, a week has gone by, the mail hasn't been touched and your phone starts to ring a lot more than usual.
We appreciate that having to open mail can cause a lot of anxiety, particularly if you are in financial hardship. However, in the long term it can make things a lot more difficult.
If you are sitting at your kitchen table with your cup of coffee staring at a pile of mail and you don’t know what to do, don’t worry help is out there.
A financial counsellor can look over your financial situation, discuss options with you, and if need advocate on your behalf with creditors and utility companies. The important thing to remember is that you do not need to go through this alone. Our financial counsellors are free, friendly and ready to help.
To book an appointment with a financial counsellor call the [Affordable SA Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) on 1800 025 539 or search for [Financial Counselling Services](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services) in the Affordable SA App.
There are many different ways to pay a bill and everyone has their own preferred method. You can take a paper bill to the post office, send a cheque in the mail, make a payment via Bpay or set up an automatic direct debit.
If you are currently receiving a Centrelink payment or have just recently started to receive one due to the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, then another way to pay your bills is via Centrepay.
Centrepay is a free bill paying service through Centrelink, whereby an agreed amount comes directly out of your fortnightly payment.
To set up Centrepay, you just need to tell Centrelink:
· Who you want to pay
· How much you want to pay
· Which Centrelink payment you want the money to come from
Centrepay can be a useful way to pay for essential living expenses, such as electricity, gas, water, rent, mortgage repayments, etc.
For a full list of goods and services that can be paid via Centrepay, see the following link https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/centrepay/how-use-it/goods-and-services
For more information about how Centrepay works, see the attached link and video from the Department of Human Services.
In the current environment many people are finding themselves in financial hardship or struggling to pay their bills. The change in the weather, and many of us being at home more often, means that our normal home costs for heating and electricity may skyrocket and we can expect big surprises coming up for our next utilities bill. Kids studying at home or home becoming your office place can put a lot of strain on the family as well as running utilities all day long during peak hours and continue into the evening.
You may still owe money for a previous bill and worried about the increased usage of your next bill. You may have now gone onto a job seeker payment and found yourself with a health care card. The South Australian Government offers some of the most generous help and concessions on electricity, water and cost of living assistance. Being on Job Seeker or Job Keeper means that you may qualify for many concessions that are there to assist South Australians in managing their cost of living pressures.
Your utilities provider can help you if you are in hardship by organising a hardship payment plan or rather than receiving one large bill each quarter can calculate your usage and spread the payments. This can help you to manage as you go. The Federal and SA government has been actively pursuing the utilities providers for fair response for people in hardship and has concessions for those most vulnerable.
If you have trouble communicating with your utilities company or in finding a manageable solution for your situation you should speak to a [financial counsellor](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services). A financial counsellor is free, independent and there to support and assist you in managing the cost of living. They can be your advocate in dealing with debt companies or utility providers and will be able to provide you with the options available to you to support you through this period and getting you back on track for the future.
See [Concessions](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/concessions) on the Affordable SA app and website to see if you quantify for any SA Government assistance or ring the concessionsSA hotline on 1800 307 758. You can find more information about [utilities](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities) help on the link below. You can also learn more abut utilities and find ways to help you reduce your utilities costs at [ConnectED](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities/connected-utilities-literacy). These services are still operating during the COVID19 crisis online or by phone.
If you find yourself working from home for work remember to keep track of the hours and utilities usage as these may be useful for any tax benefits available for some of these costs.
Watch the video from Karyn from Moneycare, your personal financial counsellor, to find out more about Utilities help and [financial counselling](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services) available in SA. To find a Moneycare Financial Counsellor ring 1800 722 363 or the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539
The effects of the Coronavirus has changed most of our lives in an instant and many of us will be looking seriously hard at our finances for the very first time. We make decisions about our money every day and yet most find it daunting, stressful and overwhelming to contemplate.
Creating even a basic budget is a good way to manage your money. It provides some guidelines for you to stay on track and lets you plan for things you want and navigate through problems when the unexpected happens.
Where do I start? If you seek help from a financial counsellor they will almost always look at your basic income and expenditure, what you are spending compared to what you are earning. If the money coming in, is less than the money going out it's pretty obvious that there is a problem and where uncontrolled debt may become an even bigger issue. The problems associated with the Coronavirus has meant that many people will be in this situation for quite a while and a lot of businesses have hardship departments to help you deal with paying your debts, particularly if your income has been affected by the virus.
How much am I really spending? Most people when asked could not tell you what they really spend on food and other essentials let alone the money they spend on the things they could do without. We all now know exactly what we spend on toilet paper and how much is too much to have in the cupboard because of the recent focusing of our attention. The first thing in preparing a good budget is to know what you are spending. Tracking your spending will help you create your budget.
The [Money Smart](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/money-smart) website has a lot of tools and advice that can help you to track your spending and create your budget. If you do your banking online your bank often provides categories for your expenses and this can help you track spending in listed areas quickly.
It doesn't take a global pandemic to throw people into hardship. Many people fall into hardship with just one change in their life. You or a partner becoming ill, losing a job or reduced work hours. The Affordable Helpline staff speak to people everyday who have fallen into unexpected debt because of such scenarios. What you can afford can change overnight and if you don't respond quickly it can lead to long term debt and ongoing financial problems. Having a budget means you can respond quickly to your changing financial situation, maintain the things you need and plan for the things you want.
Recently there has been a lot of hype around budget management companies and we see the marketing for these companies ramped up over this period in the media. These companies charge pretty large fees just to manage your money. Money that you could be using to improve your situation if you manage your own budget.
[Financial Counselling](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services) is free, independent and confidential. Its done by registered professionals who have undergone training. It's free, not just for the initial consultation but all the time and is there for anyone experiencing financial difficulties.
Watch the video, "Income and Expenditure" by Financial Counsellor Karen from The Salvation Army and check out the Money Smart website for recommended online tools to help you track your spending and create your budget. You can find a financial counsellor near you, by calling the [National Debt Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/national-debt-helpline) 1800 007 007 or the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539.
The [Affordable SA Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) is run and staffed by SA locals. They know South Australia and the problems we face together in this state as well as the help available to South Australians.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by cost of living issues help is always available at your fingertips via the Affordable SA App (free to download) and online at [affordablesa.com.au](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/) or a call to the Helpline 1800 025 539 locally staffed from 9.30 till 8pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30am to 4.30pm Friday. You can leave us a message after hours and we’ll get back to you, e-mail us at the website or drop us a message on facebook.
For those seeking self help please use the “I need help with… “ tool, available on the Affordable SA App and website. Download the App for free from Google or iTunes.
Here on the Affordable SA Helpline we receive phone calls everyday from people from all over South Australian who are experiencing financial hardship. After working on the Helpline for several years, one of the biggest things that I have learnt is that financial hardship does not discriminate - it can affect anyone.
The parents who give you a wave as you drop your children off at school may have no idea that you are struggling to keep up with your mortgage repayments. The neighbour you speak to over the fence about the weather may have no idea that your mobile phone service has just been restricted because you haven't been able to pay the bill. The elderly woman who smiles at you as you take your bins out each week may have no idea that you just received a Default Notice from your bank because you have not been able to keep up with the payments on your car loan. The man who served you at the supermarket this morning may have no idea that you budgeted to the exact dollar for food just so you can pay your rent next fortnight.
Financial Hardship can affect anyone and there a many different reasons why:
- Family violence
- Credit over commitment
- Physical health
- Mental health
- A relationship breakdown
The important thing to remember is that if you are experiencing financial hardship you do not have to go through it alone. If utility companies, banks, creditors, collection agencies, pay day lenders, insurance companies, etc are constantly contacting you demanding money and you don’t know what to tell them anymore it is okay to reach out and ask for help.
Financial counselling is a free, independent and confidential service that offers support, information and advocacy to anyone experiencing financial hardship. A financial counsellor will look at your overall financial situation and provide you with options and can advocate and negotiate on your behalf if need.
To see if financial counselling is right for you, see the attached video from Moneysmart, which explains the role of a financial counsellor.
To find a financial counsellor near you, see the attached link to Affordable SA website or ring the Affordable SA Helpline 1800 025 539.