12 Jan 2022

Lack of funding for financial mentors increasing stress on communities - FinCap report

5:14 am on 12 January 2022

New data from a financial agency shows mental health funding levels are behind community demand as a result of Covid-19 and housing issues.

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FinCap's financial mentors were just coping with the increased strain created by Covid-19, the report states.

FinCap chief executive Ruth Smithers is calling for ongoing sustainable funding for all financial mentors' work, as the data reveals they're facing increased pressure because of the pandemic, housing issues and mental health.

"People working with financial mentors are often facing challenges that significantly undermine their wellbeing. The brilliant support financial mentors provide see many whānau overcome these issues and get back to what they do best in our local communities."

The survey run looked to identify the impact of Covid-19 on the workload of financial mentors and on the whānau they support, Smithers said.

One mentor states in the report, "The cases are more complex, with many mental health issues. We have now had to extend the appointment times to two to three hours as opposed to the one to two hours previously."

Work on avoiding eviction due to rent arrears, getting access to emergency housing and costs associated with poor quality rental accommodation were also highlighted by the financial mentors surveyed.

The report finds current funding levels are behind community demand and more than three quarters of our nation's committed financial mentors working unpaid hours to get results for whānau.

Smithers said she knows Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni and the wider government recognise and support the hard work of financial mentors in our communities.

Smithers welcomed a 2020 increase in funding for financial mentoring services from the Ministry of Social Development to help with the expected increase in demand with Covid-19.

Currently this is scheduled up to June 2022.

"Some services receive no funding and many are working extra unfunded hours.

"Looking for funding to make the support they provide viable means more stress and constraints on their time sharing valuable expertise with the people who need them most."

Smithers expects workloads to increase significantly going forward but creating a resilient sector means financial mentors will be able to continue to support those in need.

"Reports in recent days of around two-thirds of those in work giving a poor rating to their own financial capability to manage a three-month period without work are concerning."

She said this highlighted the need for sustainable funded expert financial mentors ready to go on the ground.