More than a third of the disputes that consumer representatives lodged on behalf of consumers in 2012-2013 came from just ten organisations. Legal Aid New South Wales had the highest number, lodging 65 disputes on behalf of their clients.
Murwillumbah and Tweed Financial Counselling Service brought the fifth highest number of disputes to us – an amazing achievement considering the service is run by two part-time employees. Hard-working duo Katie O’Connor-Burger and Marie Rogers job share one financial counsellor position for the centre, which services the Tweed Shire population of more than 90,000 people. Any Tweed Shire resident concerned about their personal debts can make a face-to-face appointment to see Marie or Katie, and the Service also provides education to the community about consumer credit laws and financial hardship. Most of the Service’s clients receive a Centrelink benefit or are otherwise economically-disadvantaged, vulnerable people.
Marie and Katie work closely with other community service providers, both government and non-government, to network, share ideas and talk through issues and provide client referrals. The financial counsellors said casework has become more complex in the last three years – mostly due to ongoing effects of the GFC and clients’ ongoing reliance on credit to manage their day-to-day living.
Community organisations that lodged the highest number of disputes with FOS