COVID-19 has impacted heavily on many households over the past two years, particularly in the Melbourne region with multiple lockdowns, business closures and people losing employment.
In some instances, multiple members of families have lost their jobs, leaving households with no income for extended periods of time.
Many households are experiencing financial hardship even where employment has been maintained, as a result of COVID-19 related or other issues including family breakdown, mental/physical health problems, and housing stress.
Households can also experience hardship unexpectedly due to short term crises, such as receiving large medical or utility bills, redundancies, accidents and more.
CatholicCare Victoria’s Emergency Relief program operates in 12 locations across Victoria, providing free financial assistance to families and individuals in need.
We can assist with various vouchers for food or fuel, as well as Kmart and St Vinnies vouchers. Our program can also contribute to household bills such as utilities, phone, medical and education expenses to name a few.
We can also provide referrals to other programs and services both in and outside of CatholicCare Victoria.
Our Emergency Relief team are ably assisted by wonderful volunteers, who give their time to support the community by speaking with people in need and distributing Emergency Relief assistance.
Our team are here to listen with care and compassion - individuals are able to speak freely and without fear of judgement. We are here to offer options for support and to listen to your needs and experiences.
Our team is a strong, caring group doing the best they can to assist Victorian families and individuals each and every day.
“I don't think I could put into words the appreciation I have for the lengths you've gone to help me. I am truly grateful,” says one individual who accessed our Emergency Relief support.
Helen, one of our Emergency Relief Volunteers, has also shared a story from an individual she recently supported:
“One client who stood out to me was a young man of Kurdish background, born in Iraq, but stateless. Almost 10 years ago he fled Iraq and came to Australia where he was placed in detention, first on Christmas Island and then Nauru,” says Helen.
“He remained in Nauru in detention until 2019 when he was transferred to the mainland for health reasons and held in detention, first in Brisbane and then in Broadmeadows. He was finally released in 2021 into the community where he is without visa protection, without work rights and without Commonwealth government benefits, apart from a meagre subsistence allowance.
His safe haven visa application is in the hands of the Immigration Minister. He currently lives in a room in a shared house that is subsidised by the government. If there is a hopeful aspect to his time on Nauru, it is the fact that he became a Christian and decided to trust God for his future, despite the injustices he has witnessed and experienced.
I feel that while we are able to make a material difference to the lives of all our clients, they also enrich us. Life isn't an even playing field, and some mistakes cost more than others. Our clients' determination to overcome the challenges they face is a victory, and their need enables us to fulfill our highest calling as human beings, in serving them.
I truly enjoy working in the Emergency Relief program and being part of the CatholicCare Victoria Emergency Relief team,” says Helen.
At CatholicCare Victoria we also provide Financial Counselling in Bendigo, helping individuals to improve their financial situation.
Grant, a student from RMIT undertaking a Diploma of Financial Counselling, is currently completing a placement with us in our Bendigo Financial Counselling team.
Grant has kindly shared his experience during his placement with us, also discussing what’s involved in Financial Counselling:
“Financial Counselling is a free service empowering people to improve their financial situation and deal with debts or other financial struggles,” says Grant.
“With the client’s consent, we advocate for them when they require assistance to negotiate with financial institutions or creditors.
Under careful supervision from an experienced CatholicCare Victoria Financial Counsellor, I get to participate in interviews with clients by either observing or, more recently, conducting interviews. This includes completing paperwork, explaining the role of the Financial Counsellor, and ensuring the client feels safe and is reassured on our commitment to confidentiality and privacy.
From here we talk to the client to fully understand their financial situation, including what their concerns and issues are, and complete a statement of financial position to determine affordability for living and debt repayment. After a full financial assessment, we provide our clients with options, the pros and cons of each, and the client then determines what is most important to them and what option they will take.
Once the option is chosen, we empower the client to work through the process - but if they don’t feel comfortable or don’t think they can do it alone, we, after obtaining consent, act on their behalf.
During my placement so far I’ve learnt so much, but three key things I’ve learnt are that:
- Each story is unique. I’ve learned to never make a judgement about a situation based on a financial spreadsheet – only once you speak with the client and understand how they got into the situation, can you appreciate what they are going through.
- It’s so important to listen carefully to the client. Even though they are using the Financial Counselling service, there are other services that clients may require or benefit from.
- A familiar story is that once a client gets behind on a bill, they tend to ignore it. This is often because they are worried that they will have to repay the entire bill in one payment, and then miss out on basic needs like food and housing. Most banks and utility companies are regulated and have hardship rules to abide by, so many of these companies will attempt to arrange a moratorium or payment plan if a client calls.
I’ve also learnt that there are so many people already that require assistance, and if interest rates and the cost of living keeps on rising, more and more people will require the services of a Financial Counsellor.
I’d like to say thank you to the team at CatholicCare Victoria. Finding a placement, especially in a regional area, is difficult - and for an agency to undertake a placement, it is not a simple process. There are many people who dedicate significant time setting up, as well as providing ongoing supervision and assessment.
A big thanks to CatholicCare Victoria and in particular Madeliene and Geraldine for all their work. It has been a positive introduction to Financial Counselling and has confirmed it is the profession l will pursue,” says Grant.
Financial assistance for families and individuals
Looking for help?
To access Emergency Relief call 1800 123 228 from Monday to Friday between 9:30am – 11:30am. Support can be accessed by people living in Ballarat, Bendigo, Broadmeadows, East Melbourne, Epping, Footscray, Geelong, Kyneton, Melton, Norlane, Warragul, or Warrnambool.
For other locations, please search the Australian Government DSS website here.
To access Financial Counselling in Bendigo, contact our Bendigo office on (03) 5438 1300 from 9am-5pm weekdays.
More information for professionals and referring agencies
If you would like more information on the Emergency Relief program please contact Madeliene, Manager Community Support on (03) 9287 5555 or visit our webpage here:
Want to volunteer?
For volunteer opportunities please visit our webpage:
We are currently searching for volunteers who can work in Broadmeadows, or in East Melbourne/remotely.
Madeliene Scicluna | Manager, Community Support
Liz Gellel | Marketing Coordinator – Digital Lead