Ground zero of the mortgage crisis

Let me take you to ground zero of the mortgage crisis.

Right now the National Debt Helpline (1800 007 007) is receiving so many calls that they’re at breaking point.

The helpline refers people in the most dire situations on to community-based financial counsellors ‒ yet the demand is so intense that the wait time for someone to actually sit down in person and help has stretched out to three months!

(And it’s only getting worse. As I reported last week, a study has suggested that one million people may find themselves in mortgage stress if ‒ when! ‒ interest rates move upwards by just 0.1%.)

Hang on, who are the financial counsellors and what do they do?

These guys are the unsung heroes of the financial services industry. They’re free to use. They’re independent. And in your darkest hour they’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with you and fight for you when no one else will:

For the guy who’s just been diagnosed with a terminal illness …

The mother who grabbed her kids and fled from her violent husband in the middle of the night …

The young woman with a brain injury who doesn’t understand the (deliberately confusing) payday loan contracts …

The father who was laid off from work and is just trying to keep food on the table …

Yes, the ongoing Banking Royal Commission has shown us ‒ over and over again ‒ that we need these heroes.

Yet the truth is that the financial counsellors are having their own financial crisis: there are not nearly enough of them on the ground. I believe so passionately in what they do that I’ve donated 10% of my book royalties to the Financial Counselling Foundation … yet it’s a drop in the ocean.

There is only one man who can truly help: Dan Tehan.

Dan is the man, because, as the Federal Minister for Social Services, his portfolio funds the community-based financial counsellors. Dan has made recent announcements on financial counselling funding, but this only extends existing funds and doesn’t grow the services to meet demand. You need to fund ’em, Dan … it’s a growth industry!

So here’s my call to you, Dan Tehan. The financial counsellors need someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and fight for them when no one else will.

Now’s your chance, Minister. Make us proud.