Funds for budgeting service

Ready to rumble ... Dunedin Budget Advisory Service manager Andrew Henderson welcomes a funding increase to help people fight financial problems. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A Dunedin budget advisory service is set to get a share of a $35 million funding boost to help in the fight against financial problems.

On Monday, social development minister Carmel Sepuloni announced the Ministry of Social Development would give a $35million “boost” to “help New Zealanders manage their money better, both day-to-day and through periods of financial difficulty”.

A significant increase in demand for budgeting services was expected in the economic downturn from Covid-19 as some households were living on a reduced income, she said.

Dunedin Budget Advisory Service manager Andrew Henderson said the service had been lobbying the Government for more funding and he was “very pleased” about the increase.

“We are getting a 20% lift in our base funding rate, which equates to just over $20,000 per year for four years.”

The funding would allow the service to retain its good staff and allow them to work more hours to meet demand.

The service employed four staff – two full-time and two part-time – who had been “over-delivering” on its contract with the ministry.

The ministry gave the service funding to provide 1100 “one-on-one” appointments to clients in the year up to the end of next month.

“We’ve already completed nearly 1400 appointments.”

A “tidal wave” of clients seeking advice was expected but was yet to hit, he said.

Although Dunedin businesses had announced job losses, there was a lag before those affected needed advice.

“It’s not just like that [snaps finger] – the impact is slowly going to come.”

New Zealanders were stoic and did not like asking for help but he urged people to get in touch before a financial issue got bigger.

“If you ignore a problem it won’t go away.”

When facing a problem, it was human nature to react in one of three ways – “fight, flight or freeze”.

“Some will fight, some will freeze and others will run – you don’t know what you are going to do until it happens – there is no right or wrong way to react – but freeze or flight isn’t going to fix a financial problem. It’s better to understand what’s happening and look at your options.”

The help the service provides includes budgeting advice, negotiating with creditors, helping people access KiwiSaver funds, exploring insolvency options, referring clients to social workers and food banks and helping clients access grants such as the Dunedin City Council’s consumer electricity fund.