There are four practice elements that are decision-making points when gathering information from the client and matching a service to the client’s need and eligibility. These are:
These four elements may occur at the same time or as single steps.
The Client pathway flowchart - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 34KB) maps the eligibility and service options for the client from initial contact through to assessment.
Initial contact response
Initial contact response is when a client, or another person on their behalf, contacts the agency for the first time about the client’s financial difficulties. This may be in person, by telephone, or by email.
The initial contact may not always be responded to by a financial counsellor. It could be reception staff, other program staff working with clients, or intake, triage and assessment workers.
The 'Can financial counselling help?' checklist - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 47KB) can assist non-financial counselling staff to identify if a person is experiencing financial difficulties and if financial counselling might assist them.
If financial counselling is not suitable, the client can be referred to a non-financial counselling service either internally or externally.
If financial counselling is suitable the client will be triaged.
Triage is when sufficient information from or about the client is gathered to determine if the person is eligible for financial counselling services.
Three key decisions are made at triage stage:
Intake is a structured process to obtain information from a client who will receive financial counselling. For likely areas of client information to consider, view our Sample intake information - Financial Counselling Program service model page.
Assessment is the analysis of the information obtained from triage and intake prior to the commencement of casework.
For the decision points and options when assessing a client to determine what service the client is eligible for, download our Financial Counselling Program service model - Assessment flowchart (Word, 44KB). For a practical tick box, download our Assessment checklist - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 48KB).
Five key decisions are made at assessment stage:
What service is the client eligible for?
To determine the service the client is eligible for, an assessment is made of financially disadvantaged and vulnerability. For more information, view our Financially disadvantaged and vulnerable criteria - Financial Counselling Program page.
Clients should be offered the least intensive service that meets their needs. For example if a client is eligible for financial counselling, telephone financial counselling should be offered unless it is assessed as inappropriate.
If a client’s needs increase, and they are eligible, they can be moved to a more intensive service type.
Can the client’s needs be met by telephone financial counselling?
All agencies have the ability to provide telephone financial counselling, however not all clients will be able to be assisted by telephone financial counselling.
Indicators that telephone financial counselling is inappropriate are that:
- The client has needs that make communication over the telephone difficult, such as
- low English proficiency
- intellectual disability or cognitive impairment
- low literacy
- no access to telephone, or
- The client’s matter is complex, such that it is unable to be resolved by telephone services.
If telephone financial counselling is inappropriate, the client should be offered or referred to a face to face casework session.
The National Debt Helpline will assess and refer clients requiring face to face counselling using the Email referral of a client from the National Debt Helpline to a community agency template (Word, 59KB).
Can the client’s needs be met by sessional casework?
Sessional casework is offered for matters where:
A person who is financially disadvantaged and not vulnerable is only eligible for sessional casework. For more information, view our Financially disadvantaged and vulnerable criteria - Financial Counselling Program page.
Community agencies should only refer to the National Debt Helpline if the:
- agency does not have the capacity to attend to the caller, and
- client is eligible for sessional casework, and
- client is capable of using the telephone.
If the client is financially disadvantaged and vulnerable, and sessional casework is inappropriate, the client should be referred for extended casework.
Is the matter urgent?
If it has not already occurred, an assessment of urgency should be made. For more information, download our Urgency checklist - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 28KB).
If a matter is found to be urgent, this assessment will feed directly into the prioritisation of the case.
What priority should the matter be given?
As part of the assessment process, all cases should be allocated a priority and offered services in accordance with that priority.
This is done with regard to:
- the personal characteristics of the client, in particular the extent of their vulnerability and the limits on their capacity to handle the problem on their own
- the seriousness of the consequences to the client from the issues they are facing, and
- urgency. For more information, download our Urgency checklist - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 28KB).
Priority is determined by assessing both the level of vulnerability of the client and the impact of the circumstances using the following matrix:
Once the client’s vulnerability and impact of the circumstances have been assessed, they will be allocated a priority level.
Each priority level has an associated response time. All matters assessed as ‘urgent’ are automatically a priority level 1.
Assessment priority determinants and circumstances
- is assessed as vulnerable as part of the eligibility requirement
- is extremely distressed
- exhibits low confidence and limited capacity to take steps themselves
No or low vulnerability
- is not assessed as vulnerable as part of the eligibility requirement
- shows good understanding of their situation
- show capacity to take action on information from financial counsellor
High impact consequences
- assets or income are at immediate risk
- loss of accommodation likely
- loss of access to essential utilities likely
Low impact consequences
- assets and income not at immediate risk
- accommodation not at risk
- client is judgment proof
Once the client's vulnerability and impact of the circumstances have been assessed, they will be allocated a priority level.
Each priority level has an associated response time. All matters assessed as 'urgent' are automatically a priority level 1.
Assessment priority level and response time
Maximum response time to client
High vulnerability with high impact consequences or urgent
High vulnerability with low impact consequences or low vulnerability with high impact consequences
Low vulnerability with low impact consequences