What would happen to your credit commitments if you found yourself: unemployed or having to reduce your working hours, suffering from illness or injury, in a relationship breakdown, with a death in your family, or natural disaster? Would you be able to make your loan, credit card or mortgage repayments? Financial hardship can happen to anyone at anytime, and the Midland Information Debt and Legal Advocacy Service Inc (MIDLAS) have trained, independent financial counsellors to help you work through your options when hardship occurs.

MIDLAS welcomes the recent announcement by the Australian Bankers’ Association Inc (ABA) that the banking industry has committed to a financial hardship package that will support and aid bank customers who are experiencing temporary financial difficulties. Steven Münchenberg, Chief Executive of the ABA, said: “Our research tells us that only one in four bank customers know that the banks offer hardship assistance. We would like to change that.” The financial hardship package introduces a range of initiatives that improve the bank hardship policies and practices ensuring consumers are treated fairly, and with respect and understanding. New industry guidelines on financial hardship will provide practical guidelines on supporting customers’ individual circumstances by allowing for flexibility. So if you are having temporary financial difficulties take action and contact your bank.

A MIDLAS financial counsellor can help you prepare the information that you need for your hardship request. Working through a budget will let you, and your bank, know exactly what you can afford and will assist the bank to offer you the best arrangement for your circumstances. The financial hardship package means that banks have now committed to providing bank staff with more training around hardship. A recent ‘Rank the Banks’ survey by financial counsellor’s ranked the banks out of 10 for their services for clients in hardship, banks generally scored between 4 and 6. The financial hardship package guidelines and bank staff training will mean that consumers and financial counsellors will see an increase in consistency and fairness to consumers in hardship.

If you are unable to make full or partial payments towards your loans, the first step is preparing a budget to understand the amount of income coming into your household and the expenses that need to be paid. Secondly, call your bank for assistance. You may simply only need to defer a payment as a once off, allowing you to get back on track with repayments at a later date. If you are going to be in a financial hardship situation that you expect to recover from in the short term, contact your bank’s hardship department for a hardship request form. If you feel that events may cause a longer or permanent change in your financial circumstances, let your bank know and book an appointment with a financial counselor at MIDLAS. The ABA’s website, please click here to view,  has step by step guides and information on all aspects of how to deal with the banks if you have financial problems. It is expected that the banks will soon have dedicated hardship information on their website homepages and in their branches.

MIDLAS aims to empower disadvantaged and vulnerable people, which includes Indigenous and culturally diverse individuals, within our community who are experiencing distress by providing them with free services and confidential information, options, referral and support so they can navigate barriers to achieve a better way of life. To make an appointment or find out more information visit our website: www.midlas.org.au or give us a call on 08 9250 2123.

Reference http://www.bankers.asn.au/Media/Media-Releases/Media-Release-2013/Doing-It-Tough-ABA-supports-National-Cyber-Security-Awareness-Week