Counsellor shortage adds to financial pain

Woman giving elderly man advice. | Newsreel
Struggling Queenslanders seeking free financial advice are being turned away from limited counselling services. | Photo: Ruizlu Quepaz (iStock)

Queenslanders in financial crisis are being turned away from free financial counselling due to a massive shortage of qualified counsellors.

A report by the Financial Counsellors’ Association of Queensland (FCAQ) has revealed there are 29 full-time registered financial counsellors, and 81 part-time positions, to service the entire state.

FCAQ Executive Officer Jon O’Mally said New South Wales and Victoria had twice as many counsellors.

“Despite Queensland having Australia’s highest number of bankruptcies and small business failures, and record mortgage stress (the state) is spending less per capita than any other state and territory on registered financial counsellors,” Mr O’Mally said.

He said these counsellors helped victims of domestic and family violence, elder abuse and scams, as well as clients in severe financial distress.

“Never has free, qualified and independent financial counselling been so crucial,” Mr O’Mally said.

“There are a lot of vulnerable people out there – people who could lose a home, a rental property, or face other heartbreaking circumstances without financial counselling. It can benefit people in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

Mr O’Mally said while the Queensland Government had been spending money on financial wellbeing programs, this did not necessarily include registered financial counsellors, which wellbeing programs then referred clients on to, for qualified financial advice.

Registered financial counsellors rely almost solely on government funding to provide free services, which they have been delivering to struggling Queenslanders for decades.