Part of the Affordable SA Community

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7 November, 2018

There are many services to assist people experiencing cost of living pressures but finding these services can be difficult. "You don't know what you don't know". People don't know where to look, many don't know what they are entitled to or how to access the services that are free and are there to help them.

The Affordable SA is a South Australian designed and supported suite of services consisting of an App, Website and a Helpline to get you easily connected to the services that can best meet your needs depending on your individual situation.

A cost of living support community where you are the focus. Where you can learn what services are available to assist you, if you are eligible and how to access them quickly and easily. Though aimed specifically for people in need Affordable SA has quickly become a useful mobile tool for Social Workers, Financial Counsellors, Police and anyone needing to quickly identify useful assistance for people in need.

It's easy to become part of the Affordable SA Community. Download the free App available for Android or Apple devices or go to the website https://affordablesa.com.au chat to us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/affordableSAapp/ or if you need to speak to someone about your cost of living worries ring the Helpline on 1800 025 539.

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Tough times for Australians under financial pressure

New research from The Salvation Army has revealed the proportion of people over the age of 55 accessing The Salvation Army Moneycare financial counselling and capability services has increased by 37 per cent over the last 10 years.

Moneycare is one of the largest providers of financial counselling and related services in Australia. In the 2017-18 financial year, Moneycare supported more than 8500 new clients, an increase of 18 per cent on the previous financial year.

The research, an internal analysis of people accessing The Salvation Army Moneycare services over the last 10 years, also found the proportion of private renters over 55 has increased by 55.5 per cent (from 27 per cent in 2008/09 to 42 per cent in 2017/18). Credit card debt has also increased among this group. This marks a significant increase in the number of people who may enter retirement in debt and without the extra security of owning a home.

Tony Devlin, the head of Moneycare, says both state and federal governments must adopt “an affordable housing strategy, including a focus on older Australians to minimise the risk of homelessness, and promote a sustainable and affordable retirement system.”

The research also found:

- The proportion of participants with pay-day loans has more than doubled, and the size of their debts to pay-day lenders has tripled in real value compared to 10 years ago.

- The most common form of debt is credit card debt (49 per cent) followed by personal loans (30 per cent) and electricity debt (25 per cent). The real value of credit card debt has increased by 38 per cent over a 10-year period.

- 39 per cent of participants presented with non-financial issues that led them to financial hardship, with the top three most reported issues being health (15 per cent), employment (15 per cent), situational (5 per cent; situational issues include natural disaster, loss of family member, immigration problems) and addiction (5 per cent).

- When adjusted for inflation, participants’ disposable income has not increased over the past 10 years. In 2017-18, participants’ median disposable income was $576, which is below the Australian poverty line, while unavoidable costs such as housing and utilities have increased.

- People in severe debt has remained prevalent with 11 per cent of participants having debt more than six times their annual disposable income.

“Our services have been able to transform the lives of people who contact us, however, the demand is great,” Mr Devlin says.

“What will help thousands of financially vulnerable Australians get back on their feet is an increase in funding and access to financial counselling, financial capability services and microfinance for low-income earners and people in financial hardship, as well as an increase in the Newstart Allowance to meet a basic standard of living and increase job seekers’ likelihood to secure employment.”

The Salvation Army encourages anyone in need of assistance to contact its free and confidential Moneycare financial counselling service. For more information, please call 1800 007 007 (National Debt Hotline) or visit salvos.org.au/moneycare.

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Low cost school holiday activities

Keeping the kids occupied this school holidays without constantly shelling out dollar after dollar for entertainment can be difficult.

Matching the energy and momentum of kids during the holidays will either be joyous or quickly fall into torturous organisational mayhem with parents constantly juggling home and work to manage young children. For some families it can be an expensive entertainment quest they can well do without.

Some of the best places to find low cost activities for young kids during the holiday season are your local Public Library, Community Centre and Community Gardens. From Lego construction and fun craft activities to gaming and learning new tech. There are a host of school holiday programs to keep the kids minds engaged or at the very least amused.

Public libraries with their image of the thin-lipped librarian with strict code of quiet and diligence have transformed with the push to bring the libraries back to the public eye and use. Many sceptics predicted the library with its printed collection as going the same way as an aging postal service that fails to keep pace with technology or new enterprise. Some of the big libraries and centres have met this challenge by exploring how and what people want or use and giving them more of what they want. Most modern libraries have made the transition and you can find a wide range of people on the computer terminals researching, or after school kids just gaming amongst an around the clock host of activities. More importantly a library card comes with home access to professional online tutorials, ebooks, video and music downloads - all part of every library throughout the state. During the holidays they have an enormous range of activities for young minds.

The huge increase in Community Gardens has provided a great meeting place whilst providing entertainment for kids. In SA there were around 40 in 2012 and that number has grown to hundreds. These gardens have taken over as a modern day kids club where stay at home mums and dads can gather and collectively keep the kids occupied whilst having a grown up chat and literally watch the grass or veggies grow. Sometimes a collective of parents is just what you need to ease the constant guardianship of being a watchful modern super parent. Who knows the kids might even find a worm or two to eat and you can watch and debate if that’s OK or not.

Community Centres offer a wide range of activities for youth or slightly older children as well as adult education, physical fitness, community meals or well-being and self-development programs. Some of the larger centres in the North and South have such a myriad of clubs and activities associated and can even offer employment assistance and access to the wider service agencies that provide such things as emergency relief, financial counselling or cost of living assistance. These super centres have many activities each day over the holidays and whilst the kids are busy you can take part in something yourself.

So why not consider taking the kids down to the local community centre or library, or if the weather is good and you’re feeling like an afternoon in the garden check out what’s growing around your local area. Already the school activity programs are filling up fast and for the more popular events it’s worth jumping online straight away and booking. It could be a low cost way of not only engaging the kids or sparking an interest but expanding your own brain as well.

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Life takes an unexpected turn - Affordable SA

Many of us will go through financial problems at some stage in our lives. Some will waiver in and out of financial stress on a regular basis and most people are only one life-changing event away from hardship.

There are so many uncontrollable life events that can send us into financial hardship. South Australians in recent years have been subjected to a changing workplace environment with industries winding down or transitioning. The cost of utilities such as power and water has skyrocket to record heights.

The more personal scenarios we see are family breakdowns. Divorce and separation can be both emotionally and financial difficult. Domestic Violence. Problem gambling is still a huge burden in the community or a partner who leaves you with a hefty share of uncontrollable debt through credit cards and bad financial loans.

Our health too plays an important part in managing our lifestyle. Serious illness can strike anyone and the cost of care along with changing employment or income due to illness can quickly impact of your ability to maintain lifestyle and can send a financial shock wave through your life.

Not many of us are well prepared for life’s curve balls and seeking help can seem confusing or as confronting as the issue itself. Most service providers now understand that maintaining dignity and confidentiality can be just as important as providing the service, and the more people know and can self manage the more in control they can feel. More control means less stress and the sooner you seek help the less likely debt will accumulate.

The Affordable SA Program is at hand to support and empower you to make informed decisions and connect you easily and readily to valuable independent, confidential and free services in your area.

The Affordable SA Program can be accessed at www.affordablesa.com.au, www.facebook.com/affordableSAapp, or is free to download through Apple and Google search 'AffordableSA'. 

Affordable SA also is supported through a Helpline service 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30am to 4.30pm Fridays its a free call 1800 036 539.

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