Financial shepherds help low income earners
BEING excluded from mainstream financial services doesn't mean there is no avenue for finding help to your financial stress other than to pay a high price through shop-front lenders.
Good Shepherd Microfinance offers financial relief for low income earners through several programs that are underwritten by the National Australia Bank and state governments.
About 30% of its flagship program, No Interest Loan Scheme, clients are seniors. Last year GSM helped 6900 senior clients deal with financial stress.
A car breaking down, an unexpected household or medical bill, can all push a person or family into financial stress.
Good Shepherd Microfinance's acting chief executive officer Renee Hancock said that in Australia now there are a staggering two million people who are experiencing severe financial stress and another 10 million who are experiencing low-level financial stress. Of those, she said about three million are experiencing financial exclusion.
"Many of those people are excluded from accessing mainstream financial services which means they can't access a credit card, or a personal loan, they might find it difficult to access insurance products which is right for their needs. We call that financial exclusion," Ms Hancock said.
"GSM provides affordable financial programs and services for people who are financially excluded."
Ms Hancock used the example of Robert to explain how the GSM can make a real difference.
Robert found himself homeless with no money, just one bag of belongings and a second-hand car when his relationship broke down.
After eight months of living rough Robert moved into unfurnished housing. "After a couple of nasty payday loans paying interest I couldn't afford, I was desperate to find another way to finance my new household items." Robert said
With the help of GMS' No Interest Loan Scheme he was able to purchase a new fridge and washing machine.
"As soon as I got the fridge and washing machine, the apartment felt like home. I don't know where else I could have got these things from," he told GSM.
NO INTEREST LOAN SCHEME
NILS is a credit option. It's a loan up to $1200 which can be used to purchase essential household items or services, such as whitegoods, medical expenses, laptops and education.
The loan is not cash, instead it goes directly to the supplier.
- Repayments work out to between $15 to $40 per fortnight over 12 to 18 months.
- For more information and to find a local provider, go to www.nils.com.au.
NILS has been around for 35 years. "95% of its loans are repaid," Ms Hancock said.
STEPUP LOAN SERVICES
- This is a low-interest loan of up to $3000 that can be used for essential household goods and services.
- The rate is 5.99%.
- There are no other charges with the loan.
- Essentials by AAI is offered as GSM founds clients often struggled to qualify for car insurance.
- GSM has designed with Suncorp products that are suitable for people on low incomes and whose biggest barrier to purchasing insurance is often its cost.
- The insurance is available for car and home contents cover.
- The premium can be paid fortnightly.
- The Good Money stores offer many of the GSM products and services.
- The stores are located in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
"We found that 70% of our clients were women. We realised there was a market gap as we weren't reaching people who were not already seeing the Salvation Army or other community organisations," Ms Hancock said.
"These people felt that there were no affordable finance options available and were using payday lenders or rent-to-buy companies.
"Good Money was established about five years ago which was when those companies had shopfronts in the main streets of local communities. We set up something very similar to target people who weren't using community services. What we found is that we now have a more even split between male and females accessing our products through the Good Money stores."
The stores are funded by state governments and supported by National Australia Bank which has committed $130 million to GSM loan capital.
"We do about $25 million in loans per year," Ms Hancock said.
GSM has partnered with 180 local community organisations which offer the GSM products and services through 660 locations across Australia
Other services on offer from Good Shepherd are -
ADDSUP SAVINGS PLAN
- This plan encourages NILS and StepUP clients to develop positive, long-lasting savings habits.
- It encourages people to maintain their budgeting and savings measures after they've paid off their NILS or StepUP loans by matching their savings of $500, dollar for dollar.
- When someone saves $500, NAB will match their savings dollar for dollar, so they have $1000.
- The money AddsUP clients save and the $500 from NAB can be spent any way they wish, enabling clients to define their own financial wellbeing.
- Good Shepherd Microfinance uses it buying power to give clients access to the best prices on energy efficient whitegoods, computers and other household appliances.
- Run in partnership with The Good Guys, Good2GoNow allows NILS and StepUP clients to save money and reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint.
- Clients receive free delivery on a selected range of products across Australia, including in regional and remote communities.
For more information, go to www.goodshepherdmicrofinance.org.au.