No interest loans to make a difference

Low-income earners in need of white goods, car repairs or financial education will still have access to three microfinance schemes in Latrobe Valley.

Federal Social Services Minister Scott Morrison last week committed $63.4 million of funding over the next five years to help community organisations such as Berry Street Gippsland and Anglicare Victoria, who offer No Interest Loan Schemes, StepUP and Saver Plus programs.

Anglicare Gippsland program manager for community services Nancy Oosterhof said the announcement was “welcome news”.

“Certainly for us, leading up to the budget announcement, there was uncertainty around what the funding would be,” Ms Oosterhof said.

“(This announcement) is going to make a real difference in having that ongoing option so people have access to safe, affordable options.”

Latrobe Valley residents access NILS and StepUP programs – run in partnership between Good Shepherd, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth funding – through Anglicare Victoria.

Ms Oosterhof said Anglicare had provided $32,000 of NILS to 40 people across Gippsland between July and December last year.

In the same period, 25 people accessed $75,000 loans through StepUP, which is available for people with steady incomes to access low-interest loans.

Ms Oosterhof said Anglicare could continue supporting Latrobe Valley residents with “safe and affordable credit options” after successfully lobbying for the ongoing federal commitment.

The funding package aims to support microfinance schemes, which assist low-income earners move off welfare and into steady employment or study.

Berry Street Gippsland senior manager for community partnerships and youth support services Deb Hamilton-Bean said its Saver Plus program allowed people to build their own financial capacity.

Run in conjunction with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANZ, Saver Plus signs clients up to a 10-month period to save $500, which Berry Street then matches.

“During that time, they attend money-minded workshops we deliver, focused on financial education and working through budgets,” Ms Hamilton-Bean said.

Ms Hamilton-Bean said Saver Plus – available to low-income earners, aged over 18 years and with a healthcare card – assisted close to 800 people across Gippsland since 2006.

“Once people start to save, and once you’ve got those savings in the bank, it’s amazing to see people strive to achieve further,” she said.

“Whatever (funding) we can get in our community for our people is an achievement and when it works in partnership it’s even more achievable.”

There are 650 NILS and StepUP sites, along with 60 Saver Plus sites, across Australia.

For more information phone Anglicare Victoria on 5135 9555 or Berry Street Gippsland on 5134 5971.