Sector articles of interest - 9 December

Written on the 9 December 2020 by SAFCA

  • FCA Weekly Digest
  • SACOSS -  Relief for people without incomes
  • NTCOSS -  2020 Rental Affordability Index
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics Record high new loan commitments for housing
  • ACCAN
    • Telstra in court over unfair sales to Indigenous customers
    • Need to close digital divide for Indigenous communities
    • Debt trouble with telco companies during pandemic
  • ATO - Changes to identification process for Financial Counsellors
  • Robodebt
  • Customer Owned Banks Monitoring an industry code in challenging times
     


FCA Weekly Digest

EAP Newsletter: Cultivating Trust

As part of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) package for the sector, we receive emails with wellbeing tips that refer to resources on ACCESS EAP's portal.

This week, the newsletter focusses on cultivating trust and building teams. This year has shown us that having the trust and confidence of others is invaluable in times of uncertainty.

The leader and personal tools focus on ways to build trust and the importance of trusting yourself: click on links below...

Bushfire Recovery Victoria Initiative: East Gippsland and Towong

The Victorian Government has funded Good Shepherd ANZ - CLICK HERE - to deliver a new program for people affected by the 2019-20 bushfires in Towong and East Gippsland.

Good Shepherd would like to work with services in the region to increase the economic wellbeing and inclusion of the community.

The project includes a 'travelling' Good Money Pop Up store, to provide financial information via a financial capability expert.

Discussions will cover budgeting and NILs loans, as well as options to attend Talking Money Workshops and referrals to other services.

Good Shepherd are in the process of developing the pop up store model and will advertise to clients once the locations and dates are organised (targeting end of January commencement).

If you are interested in collaborating on this project, please contact Jo Baldwin at jbaldwin@gsmicrofinance.org.au

Connecting with TAFE and University Financial Counsellors

We'd like to connect with financial counsellors who work with students and apprentices, to hear your ideas about how we can reach young people and to share resources.

Many international students who can't return home over the holiday period will be facing financial difficulty, and we want to make sure they know where to go.

We've also produced a range of materials for promotion of the National Debt Helpline, which may be useful to your organisations.

Please contact Maura Angle at maura.angle@financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au if you support students or young people in your work! Thank you.

 



SACOSS relief for people without incomes

Relief for people without incomes

There are a number of options available to support people who have lost income due to complications caused by the SA COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. Measure include:

  • A Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment of up to $1,500 available to eligible people who have been instructed to self-isolate or quarantine at home due to a public health direction or a positive COVID-19 test. To check your eligibility and to apply, visit the Services Australia website.
  • The SA COVID-19 Cluster Isolation Payment, a single $300 payment to provide financial support to workers in South Australia who are required to self-isolate because of a public health direction from SA Health and mandatory COVID-19 testing and do not have access to paid leave or other income support. To check your eligibility and apply, visit the SA Gov COVID-19 website.
  • The COVID-18 Relief Call Centre is also available for information and assistance on 1300 705 336. Services include access to personal hardship support and advice on short-term accommodation options if you cannot safely self-quarantine or self-isolate

 



NTCOSS 2020 Rental Affordability Index

The latest release of the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) highlights that JobSeeker recipients are facing severe rental stress across the country. The RAI is an indicator of the price of rents relative to household incomes based on new rental agreements. It is released annually by National Shelter, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, SGS Economics & Planning and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. To view the full report, as well as the media releases for each state/territory, click here

 



Australian Bureau of Statistics Record high new loan commitments for housing

Record high in new loan commitments for housing

The total value of new loan commitments for housing and the value of owner occupier home loan commitments each reached record highs in October 2020, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released today.

The total value of new loan commitments for housing rose 0.7 per cent to $22.7 billion in October, seasonally adjusted.

The value of new owner occupier home loan commitments rose 0.8 per cent to $17.4 billion in October 2020, more than 30 per cent higher than October 2019. To read the full report, click here

 



ACCAN

Telstra in court over unfair sales to indigenous customers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken Telstra to the Federal Court over suspect sales practices to Indigenous customers. [CRN] - Read more

New research highlights urgent need to close digital divide for Indigenous Communities

New analysis commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) shows that urgent action is needed to address the digital divide in remote Indigenous communities in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns.

While much of the nation turned to digital services such as videoconferencing and telehealth during the rolling lockdowns put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic, very few remote Indigenous communities were able to work or learn from home, or access government and health services online. With access by service providers limited by travel restrictions, many people were left without access to essential services. In some remote communities, the Wi-Fi hotspot, the only point of access, was switched off to avoid people congregating.

"COVID-19 saw communities without food and necessities of life because of the lack of access to adequate, reliable, and robust telecommunications," said ACCAN Board Member and proud Torres Strait Islander, Dr Heron Loban.  Read more

Phone and Internet customers reveal debt trouble with companies during a pandemic

Phone and internet customers say they are being disconnected, harassed by debt collectors and generally treated harshly by their telco providers when they need help, negatively impacting mental health. Read more

 



ATO - Changes to identification process for Financial Counsellors

There has recently been a change to how financial counsellors establish their identity with the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

Financial counsellors have been accepted as "covered entities" under section 255-25(2)(g) of the Tax Administration Act. This means that they can act on behalf of their client as a professional rather than an individual.

FCA has developed "A Guide to Establishing Identity when Dealing with the ATO".

The Guide is available on the Toolkit.

The FCA Guide outlines the process for becoming an authorised representative for your client and confirming your identity with the ATO, as well as the steps you should take if you encounter an ATO representative who does not accept your credentials.
 



Robodebt

The Robodebt automated welfare recovery scheme matched annualised pay information from the Australian Taxation Office and income data reported to Centrelink to claw back overpaid welfare payments.

Earlier this year, the Government announced it will be giving $721 million back to people who paid a Robodebt.

However, it is felt by some that there are a lot of people missing out on compensation.

Do you have any examples of clients who have a Robodebt, and were not fairly treated? Please send case studies to maria@safca.org.au

Read a story published by The Guardian recently - read here

 



Customer Owned Banks Monitoring an industry code in challenging times

MEDIA RELEASE Customer Owned Banking Code Compliance Committee

MONITORING AN INDUSTRY CODE IN CHALLENGNG TIMES

Customer Owned Banking Code Compliance Committee releases Annual Report for 2019-20

The independent committee that monitors the Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice (the Code) has released its annual report for a year marked by natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, along with extensive regulatory changes stemming from the Financial Services Royal Commission.

Customer owned banking institutions serve about 18% of Australia's population and manage $138 billion in assets. Sixty customer-owned banking institutions subscribe to the Code.

The report describes the activities of the Customer Owned Banking Code Compliance Committee (the Committee) in 2019-20 which, despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, included: investigations and inquiries; publication of findings; engagement with subscribers, consumer advocates and regulators; the collection of breach and complaint data in the Annual Compliance Statement (ACS); providing individualised Benchmark Reports to all subscribers; and, offering observations and guidance about industry trends. The report can be accessed here

In the report, Committee chair Jocelyn Furlan acknowledged the exceptionally challenging times for customers and businesses alike but welcomed reports of proactive engagement from Code subscribers with customers in the first months of the pandemic. "It will be important to recognise that the economic and social consequences are likely to continue for some time, with some customers continuing to need support."

She noted that during 2019-20 the Committee "continued to be mindful of its role to ensure it meets the standards required by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission for robust monitoring of an industry code".

Analysis of data self-reported by subscribers in the ACS is a vital part of the Committee's work and is usually outlined in the Annual Report. A COVID-driven extension granted to subscribers this year means that the Committee will continue its verification program into early next year and publish full ACS findings and recommendations in a separate report. The Annual Report includes raw data from the ACS, providing a snapshot of compliance and monitoring activities as well as comparisons with previous years.

The Committee welcomed a 24% increase in the number of breaches self-reported by Code subscribers in the 201920 ACS, suggesting subscribers have improved their breach identification and reporting processes. However, 16 subscribers reported nil breaches, which could indicate less-than-robust reporting frameworks. Customer owned banks reported that about 821,000 customers were directly affected by Code breaches, with a financial impact remediated by Code subscribers totalling more than $470,000.

Complaint numbers were similar to the previous year, with deposit-taking products and service continuing to be a major concern for customers.

Code review restarts

The Committee welcomed the recent move by the Customer Owned Banking Association to restart its review of the Code, a process begun two years ago. Since then, the regulatory and legislative landscape has changed significantly, especially in response to the Royal Commission's recommendations. The Committee is pleased that its industry representative, Cindy Hansen, will be part of the Code Review Advisory Committee.

The Code review presents an opportunity to articulate Code promises related to issues specific to customer owned banking.  The Committee hopes the new Code will reflect what it means to be a customer owned banking institution in terms of meeting customer expectations and needs.  Defining the values of customer owned banking institution is the first step to determining the obligations to which Code subscribers will adhere.

Helping banks meet new expectations

The expected passage of legislation regarding enforceability of Code provisions and the release of a new, enforceable, Australian Securities & Investments Commission regulation governing Internal Dispute Resolution means compliance with Codes and meeting community expectations will become even more critical for customer owned banking institutions. The Committee looks forward to helping subscribers to achieve compliance and meet new service goals in the future.

Further information

Sally Davis, General Manager Code Compliance & Monitoring
On behalf of the Customer Owned Banking Code Compliance Committee
T. 03 9613 7341 | Free Call 1800 931 678
E. sdavis@codecompliance.org.au

About the Customer Owned Banking Code Compliance Committee
The Committee is an independent body responsible for monitoring Code subscribers' compliance with standards of good industry practice set out in the Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice. The 60 customer owned banking institutions that subscribe to the Code have agreed to comply with its provisions when dealing with current and prospective individual and small business customers.

 


Author: SAFCA

SAFCA

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