The Financial Counselling Program client services are the services that will be available to the client depending on their eligibility. In some circumstances the client’s matters will be complex and require advice from a lawyer.
Information and referral
Information and referral (to non-financial counselling services), can be provided by financial counsellors or non-financial counsellors such as intake workers.
It is important that all staff providing information and referral have sufficient technical knowledge and analytical and communication skills to perform the role competently.
There should also be feedback mechanisms in place to monitor feedback from the client in response to the quality of the service provided.
The provision of information and referral to a non-financial counselling service will occur when:
- the matter can be simply resolved
- the matter is better dealt with by another service type
- a client is in-eligible for financial counselling casework.
Information and referral services in these circumstances should not exceed 60 minutes.
Information and referral services used when a client is assessed as eligible and needing casework (sessional or extended), should be limited to an average of 15 minutes. Other service hours should be allocated to casework.
An issue is resolved by providing information if the:
- person asks a simple question that the staff member can answer by providing general information that is readily available, or
- person’s situation raises a straightforward issue, and
- the worker can provide general information that is readily available, and
- if the person acts on the information, it is
- likely to resolve the issue, and
- unlikely to cause any detriment to that person’s situation.
To ensure that the information provided to clients is consistent staff should make use of:
An issue is resolved by ‘referral’ if the client requires services from a non-financial counselling service either internally or externally.
It is the responsibility of each agency to maintain or have access to an up to date database of community services suitable for referral.
Casework may only be provided by a qualified financial counsellor. It occurs when the financial counsellor works with the client to assist them to:
- understand the nature of their financial problem
- understand the options available to them in their current circumstances
- identify those options that are most likely to lead to a resolution of the problem
- identify the barriers to taking action to resolve the financial problem
The Financial Counselling Program casework services fall into two categories – sessional and extended and can be provided either via telephone or face-to-face sessions.
Community agencies provide sessional and extended casework either face to face or via the telephone.
National Debt Helpline provides only sessional casework via the telephone.
Casework is made up of a number of sessions. For the purpose of recording data, the Financial Counselling Program defines a session as approximately 60 minutes in length including the preparation and writing up of case notes.
The financial counsellor is required to explain financial and legal concepts to clients in easy to understand language.
The financial counsellor may also be required to ascertain either at assessment or during the casework if legal advice is required.
Sessional casework occurs when a client is provided with information and support for the next steps that the client will take independently. It is limited by eligibility and the nature of the issue.
Sessional casework is appropriate for matters where:
Extended casework is limited to clients who have been assessed as financially disadvantaged and vulnerable and who have complex issues and circumstances that are likely to require ongoing casework. For more information, view our Financially disadvantaged and vulnerable criteria – Financial Counselling Program page.
Clients are assisted by the financial counsellor to set goals and/or to develop a case plan to resolve or alleviate the problem. This is likely to include preparing documentation of the key issues and task to be undertaken by both the client and the counsellor.
Extended casework may include the financial counsellor:
- assisting the client with specific tasks or undertaking tasks on behalf of the client
- advocating on behalf of the client with third parties.
Case closure and feedback
Financial counsellors are required to review their caseloads and closed cases. In the Financial Counselling Program, cases are considered closed when:
Information and referral is provided and the:
- matter is resolved, or
- client is ineligible for further service, or
- client is referred to another non-financial counselling organisation.
Sessional casework occurs and the:
- matter is resolved in a limited number of sessions, or
- client is ineligible for extended casework and has reached a maximum of 5 sessions
Extended casework occurs and the case plan is completed and the matter is resolved or alleviated.
A case may also be closed if there has been no recent contact with a client. Download a Sample letter notifying client of case closed template - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 20KB).
Feedback from clients is also important to determine the level of satisfaction with the financial counselling service. Download a Sample client feedback questionnaire template - Financial Counselling Program (Word, 45KB).
Is legal advice required?
During casework the financial counsellor may:
- refer a client for legal advice when it is likely to change the options given to the client and potentially improve the client’s outcome; or
- seek legal advice from Consumer Action Law Centre’s Legal Advice Workers Line on behalf of the client as a secondary consultation in conjunction with the casework.
A referral for legal advice should be made where the client:
- has been served with any court documents
- appears to have a legal basis for disputing debts, for example time limit barred debts or credit law breaches
- is being held liable for the debts of another person
- indicates that there might be other legal issues with which they need assistance, for example family law domestic violence, employment, social security, insurance or criminal charges.
Financial counsellors may make legal referrals to Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres or private lawyers. Clients may also be referred to the Consumer Action Law Centre for legal advice and can call directly on 03 9629 6300.
Legal Advice Workers Line
Financial counsellors can contact the Legal Advice Workers Line to seek advice on a client’s case. Consumer Action Law Centre’s lawyers have extensive expertise in a number of areas of law. For more information, view our Areas of legal advice from the Legal Advice Workers Line page.
Financial counsellors can contact the Legal Advice Workers Line:
- Telephone: 03 9629 6300 (10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Monday to Friday). Ask to be directed to the Legal Advice Workers Line.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial counselling may be provided together with a referral for legal advice. In that case, it is essential the legal advisor and the financial counsellor are aware of the other’s involvement with the matter.