3 December 2014
A new program is set to tackle financial hardship by working directly with businesses to identify vulnerable customers at the earliest stages of financial stress.
Kildonan UnitingCare will deliver CareRing in partnership with a range of businesses, community agencies, the Victorian Government and Swinburne University of Technology.
The project, described as an Australian-first, aims to ‘triage’ financial issues and facilitate debt relief and payment plans, while also “screening for co-occurring issues that could be contributing to or compounding problems”.
Business partners such as Yarra Valley Water and ANZ can refer customers into CareRing – a centralised, coordinated point of contact whereby one phone call can connect people into a range of support services, without people having to go to multiple agencies.
Kildonan and Yarra Valley Water have been running a pilot of the program over the past six months, and will formally launch CareRing with a range of other participating corporates on December 9.
Kildonan CEO Stella Avramopoulos said the percentage of middle-class debt was on the rise as utility bills continued to escalate.
“Three years ago, 90 per cent of our clients were Centrelink customers – today it’s 70 per cent. So that means 30 per cent of people seeking our help have jobs or don’t qualify for government assistance – yet still can’t make ends meet.”
Avramopoulos said it was more important than ever to intervene early and provide families with holistic support, before issues take hold or escalate.
“Kildonan’s experience is that when an individual reaches out for help with financial issues, there are often several other issues at play – and getting the right help, early and easily – is vital,” Avramopoulos said.
The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) at Swinburne University has been commissioned by Kildonan UnitingCare to develop and implement the evaluation framework for the program.
Professor Jo Barraket, CSI Swinburne Director and project leader, said CareRing was an innovative upstream response to the needs of people experiencing financial stress.
“CSI Swinburne is happy to be partnering with Kildonan to develop a social impact measurement framework that supports learning from the initiative and helps grow its impacts over time,” Barraket said.