20 May, 2020 20 May, 2020

ZOOM into your household energy, water and telecommunications services

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 for other great ways to save on your Utilities bills and around the home.

12 May, 2020 12 May, 2020

Do you avoid opening your mail?

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 on 1800 025 539 or search for Financial Counselling Services in the Affordable SA App.

By Sam

11 May, 2020 11 May, 2020

What is Centrepay?

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.

6 May, 2020 6 May, 2020

Utilities during COVID19 - Karyn from Moneycare

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. 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 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 help on the link below. You can also learn more abut utilities and find ways to help you reduce your utilities costs at ConnectED. 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 available in SA. To find a Moneycare Financial Counsellor ring 1800 722 363 or the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539

by Graeme

30 April, 2020 30 April, 2020

First Time Budgeters

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 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 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 1800 007 007 or the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539.

The 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 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.

by Graeme

28 April, 2020 28 April, 2020

What does Financial Hardship look like?

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:

- Unemployment

- Underemployment

- Redundancy

- Injury

- Illness

- Family violence

- Credit over commitment

- Physical health

- Mental health

- A relationship breakdown

- Addiction

- Death

- etc...

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.

by Sam

27 April, 2020 27 April, 2020

Should I access my superannuation because of COVID-19?

From 20th April 2020, Australians impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible to access up to $10,000 from their superannuation fund in 2019-2020 and a further $10,000 in 2020-2021.

As financial counsellors, we are concerned that people who have never experienced financial hardship before will look to access their superannuation fund to overcome their immediate financial difficulties.

Before making the decision to withdraw from your superannuation fund, it is important to consider the following:

- Withdrawing money now from your superannuation fund may significantly impact the amount of money you can access when you reach retirement age. To see how withdrawing money from your superannuation fund may impact you in the future, see the super withdrawal estimator on the Moneysmart website https://moneysmart.gov.au/covid-19/accessing-your-super#covid

- If your income has been impacted by COVID-19, contact Centrelink to see if you are eligible for any payments. For more information about the government’s ‘coronavirus supplement’ for example, see the following article from Affordable SA https://www.affordablesa.com.au/news-articles/the-coronavirus-supplement

- More than 70% of Australians have life insurance through their superannuation fund. You may face losing your life and income protection cover if the amount in your superannuation drops too low

- If you are in financial hardship due to COVID-19, it is important to contact your providers and creditors straight away and ask to speak to their hardship team to see what options are available. Hardship teams have been around long before COVID-19 and are dedicated to helping you get through these tough times.

If you are still pacing back and forth in your kitchen trying to decide whether you should tap into your superannuation fund or not and you would like to speak to someone about your options, please consider speaking to a free financial counsellor. To book an appointment with a financial counsellor call the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539 or search for financial counselling services on the Affordable SA App.

by Sam

23 April, 2020 23 April, 2020

SA Funded Emergency Relief

Australians are not known for asking for help when they first need it. Even in the current crisis we tend to think ourselves as the lucky country, which is supported with an attitude of ‘she’ll be right mate’. We remain bunkered down in isolation and despite the efforts of Federal and State Governments providing financial stimulus more and more people will find themselves needing assistance for the basics over the coming months, some for the first time.

The SA Government has for many years provided for a network of support agencies across the State that can help with the basics such as food, financial help and support. We call this Network, Emergency Relief. It supports people in need with food, financial and material assistance. Access to No-Interest-Loan-Scheme, cheaper insurance, the basic essentials and free Financial Counselling to help manage debt.

As this Network is Government funded there are strict measures in place so that these services are accountable, accessible and beneficial to those experiencing financial hardship.

The SA Government funded ER agencies are provided below for convenience and to answer a few recent questions on social media.

Eastern Adelaide - Baptist Care SA 8118 5200

Northern Adelaide - Anglicare SA 1800 061 552

Southern Adelaide - Anglicare Sa 1800 748 149

Western Adelaide - UnitingCare Wesley Bowden 8245 7139

Adelaide Hills - The Hut Community Centre 8339 4400

Barossa, Light and Lower North - Lutheran Community Care 8562 2688

Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island - Junction Australia 8392 3000

Eyre and Western - CentreCare Catholic Country SA 1800 759 865

Far North - CentreCare Catholic Country SA 1800 759 865

Limestone Coast - ac.care 7725 3000

Murray and Mallee - ac.care Murraylands: 8531 4901 Riverland: 8580 5301

Yorke and Mid North - Uniting Country SA 1300 067 777

There are also federally funded programs such as The Salvation Army’s Doorways Program, which is the biggest provider of Emergency Relief in South Australia and utilises their reach to stretch across the state. It also provides many other forms of personalised supports. With 23 major centres in the state they form an important part of servicing the South Australian community and are subject to similar Government scrutiny.

Outside Adelaide there are the Australian Red Cross and community transport networks that help people get to and from services and medical appointments. In the regional areas transport is one of the big issues and without all these organisations working together many would find living in the bush a lot harder and very isolated. Organisations such as FoodBank, Oz Harvest, Second Bite and even your local supermarket form an important supply chain for these Networks.

There are smaller groups outside of normal funding arrangements such as churches and charities that help to support their communities. Some ask for donations and some charge a fee to cover their costs. Mostly they provide food to get by and some obtain grants or special funding or find support from local businesses to give a little extra. Their genuine enthusiasm and care can come from personal hardship experience and is always well received by those they help.

Community Centres often promote sharing programs with grow free tables and local Food Pantry clubs where you pay a low cost for a number of items. Many are increasingly providing food markets and food parcels at no cost. Many have social programs that incorporate free lunches and welcome anyone from the community. Of course with isolation practices in place many of these services are closed or are providing delivery or drive through pick ups. There are even a lot of goodwill volunteers who organise themselves to provide food for locals in times such as these or help pick an over abundance of fruit to share with the community. Locally sourced seasonal fruit for free, what more could you ask for?

You don’t know what you don’t know and many simply don’t know where to find and access help. Affordable SA is a user-focused suite of services, keeping people informed and aware of the community supports and services available to help whilst linking in with many organisations and promoting all the services, big and small. Affordable SA is committed to making it easy for you to connect and access these services in time of need.

Most of the funded organisations provide Emergency Relief combined with financial counselling, budgeting advice or utilities education. Some specialise in family relationships or consumer law to cover the full range of needs and many link together to form hubs of support for metro and regional areas.

Using a joint approach to providing food assistance and financial counselling works far better than just providing food alone. A financial counsellor is FREE, independent and confidential. They can help provide a new start for long-term debt issues and be an advocate for you in times of financial hardship. Accessing these services sooner rather than later can drastically change your financial outcomes and remove the related stress and mental anguish associated with being in a vulnerable financial situation.

In the coming months many of us will need to seek help. South Australia has been a leading example of doing the right thing by our neighbours. But the bell will toll and hopefully we will get through to the other side by standing together whilst apart #allinthistogether

21 April, 2020 21 April, 2020

Don't wait for a global pandemic to end before you address your financial situation

In just under 2 weeks the government will be taking the unprecedented action of increasing certain Centerlink payments by $550 per fortnight, as a response to COVID-19. Referred to as the ‘Coronavirus Supplement’, the payment of $550 per fortnight will no doubt make a huge difference to the fortnightly budgets of many South Australian households.

This payment will be a welcome relief for many people experiencing financial hardship, however it is important to remember that this supplement will eventually stop. Although we do not know what is going to happen from one week to the next for a lot of things, the government has stipulated that the supplement will be paid for approx. six months.

Therefore, it is important to be smart about your money during this time.

If you are in financial hardship, do not wait for COVID-19 to pass before you address your finances.

If you are struggling with mortgage repayments, electricity bills or credit card repayments, etc. consider calling the Affordable SA Helpline to speak to a free Financial Counsellor or search for Financial Counselling Services in the Affordable SA App.

For more information about how COVID-19 may affect your financial situation, see the attached article from the ABC.