News + Views

Financial counselling – some early data

Our important financial counselling work with women at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DPFC) prison has now been running for three months.

This project has employed a financial counsellor to work with the Mental Health Legal Centre’s Inside Access Program, assisting women in prison with their financial counselling needs, such as unpaid debt.

The project has so far seen some great outcomes, including:

  • 98 women have attended our 12 information sessions on debt management and credit reporting
  • 53 women have had one-on-one appointments with our financial counsellor, with a further 54 women on our waiting list
  • The hold on debt action now sits at nearly $400,000 and approximately $60,000 in debt has been written off. We’ve also been able to close 17 files
  • Arrangements have been made with three credit reporting agencies to enable clients to obtain their credit reports (through a manual process because the women have no access to the normal online process). To date we have ordered 37 credit reports
  • 28% of the women we’ve seen have reported some impacts of gambling harm, either directly or indirectly linked to their incarceration

We look forward to continuing this project and eventually extending the service to clients of our co-located partner the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women. We are grateful to the Victorian Foundation for Responsible Gambling, which is in the process of extending the funding for this work for a further six months.

We would also like to thank Raylene Carnie for all her great work on this pilot project – Raylene will be finishing up with the CIJ this month, and we wish her all the best. Sarah Davidson will continue in the role.

Students – Semester 2 winds up

Semester 2 2019 Clinical Legal Education, Social Work Field Education and Financial Counselling students with CIJ staff

Meanwhile, the financial counselling program has also provided RMIT financial counselling students with a unique placement opportunity supporting women who are in prison at DPFC. Our first two Diploma of Financial Counselling students have completed their 110-hour placement, with one enjoying it so much, she has asked to come back for her final 110-hours! Two more financial counselling students will be starting soon.

The inclusion of financial counselling as part of the Inside Access program has also further enriched our multidisciplinary experience for students. Financial counselling students are now working alongside RMIT law and social work students and professionals providing integrated services to criminalised women.

In Semester 2 law students have also completed placements with our partners at the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women and the Young Workers Centre. We are now looking forward to the summer semester when we’ll have our first students on placement at our new partner Youthlaw, once they relocate to join us at our new office on Pelham Street.

“My placement at the Mental Health Legal Centre… allowed me to see first-hand the strengths that can come from social workers working alongside lawyers to provide quality support and positive outcomes for clients of all walks of life.” – Nicole Blazinovic, final year Bachelor of Social Work (honours)

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