The countervailing power: review of the coordination and funding for financial counselling services across Australia

Financial services industry Banks and banking Financial literacy financial counselling Australia
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The countervailing power (report) 1.15 MB

This review was undertaken in March 2019 and engaged with State and Territory governments, the private and not-for-profit sectors, financial counselling and legal assistance sectors, and relevant Commonwealth agencies.

The review:

  • Assessed whether existing financial counselling services adequately support clients’ current, emerging or changing needs, including areas such as small business and natural disasters;
  • Explored the most efficient and appropriate way to deliver financial counselling services;
  • Considered how to improve the coordination and consistency of delivery of financial counselling services across all jurisdictions in Australia;
  • Recommended options for improving the predictability and sustainability of funding financial counselling services, including by drawing on successful international funding models and considering options for industry funding; and
  • Considered how the use of data can inform policy, service delivery and demand trends.

Summary of recommendations:

  • State, territory and Commonwealth governments convene to initiate the development of a national approach for financial counselling.
  • Total state, territory and Commonwealth government funding for financial counselling be maintained at current levels and does not decrease.
  • Additional funding be made available from industry sources, (collected by the Commonwealth Government), to enable access to financial counselling services in Australia to double over the next four years.
  • Initial contributions from industry of $20 million to begin in fiscal year 2019-2020 through a voluntary arrangement with the four major commercial banks, to enable the “ramp up” of financial counselling services to commence.
  • The Commonwealth immediately take steps to establish (by 1 July 2020) an independent body that is responsible for the national cooperative financial counselling effort. This body is to be advised by an Advisory Council of Government, the financial counselling services sector and industry.
  • The Commonwealth immediately take steps to initiate data analytic work which will underpin a national strategy and enable financial counselling services to be appropriately funded through assessment of need.
  • The Commonwealth, in consultation with small business bodies and the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, continue the exploration of small business needs for financial counselling and the best methods to address the identified need for subject matter expert support.
  • State, territory and Commonwealth governments include financial counselling services as a standard part of the broader response for assistance to people affected by natural disasters.
  • State, territory and Commonwealth governments should consider the impact and funding implications for the provision of legal assistance that will flow from significantly increased provision of financial counselling services.


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