Paying bills twice causes hardship
Last week, a young mum, Kate (not her real name), came into St John’s Care with her 2-year-old daughter to get some food as she is finding life hard at the moment. One of our wonderful volunteers realised that they hadn’t eaten all day and made them a sandwich, a cup of tea and asked what assistance they needed.
It transpired that Kate has always been a single mum and suffers from schizophrenia with psychotic episodes. This means that when Kate is having an episode she becomes very paranoid about everything. She would go to online banking and pay bills that were set up as a direct debits. Consequently, because of her behavior, she often doesn’t have enough money in her account and is charged ‘insufficient funds’ fees.
The volunteer discussed with Kate the possibility of going to Care Financial for financial counselling, support and information. She also referred Kate to Steph, our Community Worker, because the young mum had complex issues.
On talking with Kate, Steph discovered she had too many insufficient fund and administration fees charged on her gas and electric bills. She rang ActewAGL, with Kate’s consent, to find out why. They explained that if a direct debit is rejected due to insufficient funds, they charge fees, even though the account is in credit.
Steph then explained about Kate’s illness and how she didn’t trust direct debits. ActewAGL was understanding and restructured her bills so that they are more manageable. Steph reassured Kate that direct debits are in place and that they are working. She suggested she write herself a note to remind herself of that when she is unwell. Kate thought this was a brilliant idea as she is aware of her forgetfulness, when unwell.
Kate receives a disability pension because of her schizophrenia but doesn’t receive any National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support. She told Steph that she “finds it all too complicated”. Steph suggested that she bring in the form, so she could help her complete and submit it. Kate was so relieved to finally have an advocate who could help her.
She mentioned that because she is on her own she is finding it difficult to afford some of the essentials such as car rego and a new fridge. She also has an outstanding loan that she needed to get on top of.
Steph was able to tell Kate about the Anglicare No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), which offers no interest loans to people who cannot access mainstream credit. Kate was overjoyed that at last she may be able to get on top of her finances and stop herself from slipping further into poverty.
SJC wish list this week: tinned fruit, 100g coffee and 1 litre vegetable stock