Articles of Interest - 20 August

Written on the 20 August 2020 by SAFCA

ASIC publishes expectations of retail lenders when loan repayment deferrals end
ASIC Media Release 13-08-2020

Today ASIC has published expectations of lenders to assist them to deliver appropriate and fair outcomes to consumers whose six-month loan repayment deferrals will expire in the coming months. These add to ASIC's earlier expectations published on 29 April 2020.

Importantly, ASIC's expectations include how lenders should approach consumers who cannot resume repayments on their mortgages. If a consumer identifies that they cannot resume full repayments on their mortgage, ASIC expects lenders to make reasonable efforts to gather personalised information about the consumer's circumstances. We consider that taking such steps will allow lenders to make a decision about the consumer's loan in a fair and appropriate manner, including better enabling lenders to offer assistance that genuinely meets the needs of each consumer.

ASIC is also working closely with APRA to ensure that our expectations of Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs) and how they are handling loans impacted by COVID-19 are aligned. APRA has issued a consultation letter regarding ADI capital measures and reporting requirements for loans impacted by COVID-19, and an update to its FAQs.

ASIC continues to encourage all lenders to work closely with consumers affected by COVID-19 to develop solutions that not only provide relief but are sustainable and assist consumers over the longer-term.


SACOSS Connection crisis for struggling households - - Telecommunications unaffordable for waged poor

Despite holding down jobs, many families are struggling with the affordability of telecommunications services, according to a report launched today by the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS).

The Connectivity Costs II report, funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), and written in conjunction with the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TASCOSS) and the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), investigates how around 250,000 Australian households whose main source of income is wages and salaries are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep up with necessary telco bills.

"Many Australian households known as 'waged poor' are not only struggling to pay their telco and other bills, but they are also facing digital exclusion due to the cost of products and services," said Ross Womersley, SACOSS CEO. "Importantly, this is a group of people who we often simply overlook because we assume that since they have employment, they are going ok. However, our study shows that as well as struggling to pay their bills they can also be faced with additional expenses, if they are required to use their personal phone and internet services for their work."

The Connectivity Costs II project sought to examine telecommunications usage and affordability issues by conducting a national survey of 500 waged poor households and qualitative interviews in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. The biggest usage issues were around work and school.

"The survey showed that 70% of respondents who were employed used their personal telecommunications devices and services for work. For some, this was to check rosters and shifts, for others it was to contact customers, navigate to different sites or troubleshoot urgent issues on behalf of their employer."

"Worryingly, some respondents reported that their personal phone or internet service was a primary tool of their trade," Mr Womersley continued. "In these instances, this seemed to be a core part of their employers' business model at a personal expense to employees."

"How can we ever expect people to make ends meet when they can't afford the expenses that their job unfairly expects?"

"Not only is digital connection imperative for work, but many parents told us that they were concerned about their children being excluded because of a lack of access to a digital device and internet connection. This was particularly an issue for education access during COVID-19."

"While public programs like the ACT government's provision of Chromebooks are important, there were holes in that program and similar programs did not exist elsewhere," explained Mr Womersley. " This issue of home internet connections was particularly important during school shutdowns and may be again."

The report highlighted that telecommunications bills were rated as a major household expenditure by the majority of waged poor households, alongside food/groceries, energy, housing, and transport. Half of the households with smart phones and 46% with NBN or other home broadband, reported having trouble paying for the ongoing costs of those services.

"These forms of digital technology are not luxuries they are a core part of life, work and education in Australia. We must ensure that every Australian is digitally included."

ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said that there is an urgent need to address the affordability of telecommunications services for struggling households.

"The Connectivity Costs II report is the latest of many indicators which show the stress that many families face to keep connected to these modern essential services. More than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that to work, learn and access government and healthcare, we need reliable, affordable access to telecommunications services."

The report contains 10 recommendations including recommendations for telecommunications regulators, companies and community groups supporting particularly waged poor consumers, state and local governments to improve accessibility of services and devices, stipulations to employers regarding personal phone use and more. While not making specific recommendations on issues outside of direct telecommunications policy, this report also notes the importance to telecommunications affordability for access to an adequate income, and therefore the need to address issues in relation to:

  • Wage stagnation and underemployment;
  • Inadequate income support payments; and
  • The interaction between income support payments and paid work.
  • To read the full report, visit https://www.sacoss.org.au/waged-poverty

For further information/comment, contact:
Ross Womersley, SACOSS Executive Director, 0418 805 426
Caryn Rogers, SACOSS Communications Officer (Projects), 0420 750 344 caryn@sacoss.org.au
Melyssa Troy, ACCAN Media and Communications Officer, 0409 966 931 media@accan.org.au


FCA Covid19 Specific Toolkit

As COVID-19 related changes continue at an incredibly rapid pace, we're continually updating our specific toolkit website for your use: https://www.covid19fc.org.au/

If you see that information on the website has become outdated, please email info@financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au and let us know.

We're monitoring the situation across Australia as best we can, but want to make sure nothing relevant slips through the cracks!

COVID19FC.ORG.AU
HOME | Covid 19
This toolkit is a resource for financial counsellors. It covers the significant changes following the COVID-19 pandemic and provides information and resources to assist you in your work.


GSMF Financial Independence Hub

Do you know about the new Financial Independence Hub?

The Financial Independence Hub is designed to help anyone who has previously experienced financial abuse as a result of domestic and family violence, to build their financial independence.

It may be useful to keep in mind for certain people, in addition to or as a follow-up resource to financial counselling. It's certainly worth being aware of what it offers.

It has been developed by Good Shepherd in partnership with Commonwealth Bank (though you don't need to be a CBA customer to access it).

To learn more about the Financial Independence Hub and the services it provides, see here


Thriving Communities Partnership One Stop One Story Hub

The Australian-first digital platform One Stop One Story Hub will be delivered in July 2021 and will allow people to connect to the extensive support they are eligible for across a range of essential service sectors, instead of needing to individually contact and navigate the often complex systems of each organisation.

Read more


DHS - Residential Rental Grant Scheme Application

  • A once-off rental grant of up to $1,000 is available for residential landlords who reduce the rent of a tenant experiencing rental hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To be considered as being in rental hardship, a residential tenant must be receiving either the JobKeeper or JobSeeker payment as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, have less than $5,000 in savings and pay more than 30% of their income in rent.
  • The tenant and landlord need to demonstrate that a revised rental agreement has been negotiated as part of the application process.
  • The revised agreement will need to reflect that the landlord has provided rent relief to a tenant since 30 March 2020 and/or will provide such relief before 30 September 2020 (inclusive).
  • The amount of the rental grant will be calculated on the revised agreement and will be paid to the landlord to offset the provision of reduced rent to the affected tenant.
  • The rental grant is available for a multi-occupancy house, pro-rated for tenants that meet all other eligibility criteria required under the scheme. Each tenant must apply separately and will be assessed individually.
  • The rental grant is in addition to any land tax relief provided under the Government's scheme for landlords.
  • The Department of Human Services will administer the rental grant scheme and applications will close on 30 September 2020.


To apply, you will need to provide:

  • if you are receiving the JobSeeker payment your Centrelink Customer Reference Number
  • if you are receiving JobKeeper evidence from your employer (e.g. a letter or email from your employer)
  • bank statements
  • payslips
  • the original tenancy agreement
  • the revised tenancy agreement or other evidence to substantiate the amount and period of the rent reduction (e.g. statutory declaration)
  • your landlord or property agent's details

If you have any queries about the application, please email RRRS@sa.gov.au or view the Frequently Asked Questions https://www.treasury.sa.gov.au/Growing-South-Australia/COVID-19/residential-rental-grant-scheme-frequently-asked-questions

 


Author: SAFCA

SAFCA

Suite 7 Wellington Centre, 2 Portrush Rd.
Payneham SA 5070