New service to help people experiencing utility bill stress

Jul 18, 2018

21 new jobs created in Armadale

A new Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) Service Centre in Armadale will be officially launched by Minister for Community Services, Simone McGurk MLA, next Wednesday 18 July.

The HUGS Service Centre, operated by the Financial Counselling Network (FCN), will provide over-the-phone support for people experiencing difficulty paying utility bills. Located at Lotteries House, the centre will operate from 7am-7pm Monday to Friday and has created 21 new jobs in the Armadale area.

The telephone service is funded by the WA Government through the Department of Communities to assist Western Australians to keep connected to essential utility services. A team of 20 Financial Support Workers will assist clients directly referred for HUGS assistance by utility providers.

As the cost of utility charges continues to increase, WA households are now spending an average of $1,791 on energy each year – this can account for more than 10 per cent of household spending for low income families, according to the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

The Financial Counselling Network is a partnership of 15 organisations working to reduce the drivers and impacts of financial hardship in the WA community by collaborating to deliver integrated, person-centred services.

The lead agencies in the FCN, Anglicare WA and UnitingCare West, say they expect the HUGS Service Centre to receive over 23,000 calls per year from people experiencing financial hardship.   

Anglicare WA CEO Ian Carter said that in addition to assessing eligibility for HUGS, the Service Centre would be able to refer people to other services they may need, including financial counselling. 

“People have complex reasons for falling into financial hardship, so taking a holistic, people-centred approach to dealing with their issues will better connect them with other services to help them move towards financial stability,” Mr Carter said.

“As our economy continues to tighten and the cost of essential utilities increases, we expect more people to experience utility stress. This service is here for those people, to help them work through and hopefully resolve their issues.”

UnitingCare West CEO Amanda Hunt said the Service Centre has employed staff based out of Armadale, with many people living locally.

“We are excited that the Financial Counselling Network is providing employment opportunities in the local area and has recruited staff using an innovative approach in conjunction with local job network providers,” Ms Hunt said.

Financial Counselling Network partners include:

  • Anglicare WA
  • Australian Red Cross
  • Blue Sky Community Group
  • City of Cockburn
  • Communicare
  • FinUCAre
  • Foothills Information and Referral Service
  • Gosnells Community Legal Centre
  • Midlas
  • Mission Australia
  • Patricia Giles Centre
  • Southcare
  • Sussex Street Community Law Service
  • The Spiers Centre
  • UnitingCare West

Ends

Media Contact Details

John Cooke
Public Relations Manager
UnitingCare West

Phone: 0433 679 780
Email: john.cooke@unitingcarewest.org.au

Freya Barr
Marketing & Communications Manager, Anglicare WA

Phone: 0412 147 236
Email: freya.barr@anglicarewa.org.au

 

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