Lutheran Community Care (LCC) provides community services on behalf of the Lutheran Church of Australia across South Australia and in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Much of their work involves supporting individuals and families in need. LCC’s services are based on respect, integrity and compassion and include: emergency relief, home visits, parenting courses, services for newly arrived migrants and people who are homeless, personal counselling and financial counselling.
Wendy Richards is a financial counsellor with LCC based in Salisbury.
‘I didn’t travel a direct route towards the role of financial counsellor,’ Wendy said. ‘I began with the Department of Social Security, then took a left turn into teaching music before becoming a tour bus driver. I also worked as a motorbike postie, a limo driver and a youth refuge worker. It was then while working at The Salvation Army in emergency relief that I was offered the opportunity to study the Financial Counselling Diploma.
‘I felt like I’d finally found my vocation,’ Wendy said. ‘Without knowing it, I had been preparing for this my entire working life. I continued working part time as a financial counsellor for The Salvation Army before finding full-time employment with Lutheran Community Care.
‘I love financial counselling and consider it a privilege to work in this field, walking alongside my clients on their journey to turning things around,’ Wendy said.
Financial counsellors are gatekeepers for a great deal of information, and sharing this knowledge with people in financial difficulty is both important and extremely rewarding for Wendy.
‘I am finding that financial pressures, loss of employment or change of circumstances has led to an increase in the number of my clients forced into voluntary surrender of assets in the past 12 months. Mortgage repayments are becoming less affordable for people on Newstart and finding a job in the northern suburbs of Adelaide is pretty tough at the moment.
‘I am seeing fair outcomes for many of my clients from banks in general, which is pleasing, and issues relating to short term, high interest loans seem to have lessened. That said, problems relating to consumer leases remain constant.’
Wendy’s role as a financial counsellor is unique as she is based in a Good Money store. She also provides outreach in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, working with newly arrived humanitarian refugees and visiting patients in the mental health wards at Lyell McEwin Hospital. A hard woman to catch, Wendy remains connected to her early experience at The Salvation Army by working one and a half days a week from the Uniting Church in Salisbury, supporting their emergency relief service.
We’re not sure how she crammed it into such a busy schedule, but Wendy recently attended a professional development day offered by the South Australian Financial Counsellors’ Association, which included an in-depth workshop presented by FOS. The session covered financial difficulty, financial abuse and codes of practice.
‘As a result of the training I can see clear options to explore with my clients,’ Wendy said. ‘I also felt like the case studies presented were a good way to put our knowledge to the test.’
Back at the Good Money store, Wendy was recently involved in a pilot project called ‘Debt Deduct’, trialling a 0% interest loan. Debt Deduct loans are designed to contribute to a (heavily discounted) full and final payment to release people from the cycle of short term, high interest loans. Early signs indicate that people are successfully repaying their loans.
‘Now the pilot has ended, we wait with bated breath for the review and future plans to be announced,’ Wendy said.
For more information about the financial counselling program at Lutheran Community Care, visit their website.