Struggling customers urged to seek help
HELP is at hand for local customers experiencing ongoing hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a pioneering partnership between leading local businesses and organisations.
The Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) launched in February last year and was Australia’s first city-wide plan to support customers struggling financially due to the effects of the pandemic.
Those involved with the local program include Barwon Water, Deakin University, Aware Super, Give Where You Live Foundation, WorkSafe Victoria, Bethany, MatchWorks, the City of Greater Geelong and Colac Otway Shire.
FIAP is led by Good Shepherd – a not-for-profit which tackles issues facing women, girls and families such as crisis services, housing and access to safe and affordable finance.
Barwon Water general manager customers and community Jo Murdoch said many people who had never asked for help before had reached out to say they were experiencing genuine financial distress.
“We want to get the message out loud and clear that help is available so please don’t be afraid to contact us,” Ms Murdoch said.
“By working with customers who have experienced job loss, reduced income or a change in circumstances, we’ve been able to identify customer support options to help them through this challenging time.”
Good Shepherd’s CEO Stella Avramopoulos commended the 10 local FIAP members for banding together to put in place practical initiatives to support financially vulnerable people facing challenges such as job loss.
“During a crisis like this it is vital that corporations, government and the not-for-profit sector work together to provide genuine support for those who need it,” Ms Avramopoulos said.
Initiatives introduced by FIAP members include:
* Barwon Water contacted around 400 customers every week to let them know about support available, including help with concession card discounts, access to government relief and rebates, payment grants, plans and extensions and referral to financial counselling
* Deakin University’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund assisted students with emergency grants of up to $500. Thousands of students were supported with food vouchers, referral to Deakin Health & Wellbeing programs and links to relevant information. Additional targeted support was provided for international students
* Give Where You Live Foundation gave eight emergency grants of $30,000 each and leveraged additional funding to support both existing grants and the Direct Assistance Voucher program
* Aware Super delivered 650-plus webinars, covering 24 different topics, to help vulnerable members to make the best decisions about their financial future, especially around early access of superannuation
* Bethany Community Support provided a free COVID-19 Support Line with qualified counsellors for people needing support with COVID-related impacts on their relationships, parenting, financial stress and wellbeing including needing emergency financial relief, social isolation, and gambling-related harm.
For more information go to fiap.org.au/about/fiap-placebased.