Iosis launches new financial mentoring service

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Iosis

Iosis, in collaboration with Presbyterian Support Northern and the Anglican Trust for Women and Children, recently secured a government contract to provide financial mentoring. This free service will sit alongside the agencies’ school-based social work.

The contract is part of the Ministry of Social Development’s new Building Financial Capability service, which has re-framed the role of budget advisor as ‘financial mentor’. This change reflects both the complexity of people’s needs, and the fact that many advisors provide more than budget guidance to their clients.

Financial mentoring is intended to be more client-focused and flexible, allowing for a strengths-based approach.

 Meet Iosis’s new Financial Mentor

Carmel has six years’ experience as a budget advisor, and is also currently involved in the professional development of financial mentors.

She says she is excited at the opportunity to work within the context of a social work team, and within a multidisciplinary agency such as Iosis.

“At the budget service I worked in before, we had only budgeters. I knew social workers who brought their clients to me. But other clients would come in and you’d know they were working with social workers or schools, Police, or Child, Youth and Family, but you didn’t have contact with those other agencies. So you and everyone else were just getting part of the picture.

“We can see a client for as many sessions as they need. Generally it would be a couple at first, and then you get to a point where a lot of people will pull back because they are not ready or at a place where they want to, or are able to, make changes.

“Often that is because of other complex things happening in the household, and to be honest, finances are the last thing that they can address with other things going on.

“That’s why I am excited at being with a social work team. Rather than let those people drift off, they will be getting that help as you go forward. It might be that we can’t actually deal with the financial stuff until this is sorted, but we are still walking alongside them.”

The challenge ahead

Even with this extra support available, Carmel knows helping families make a budget work will remain a challenge.

“No matter how good a budgeter you are, or how far you can think outside the square or try and make the figures work, not enough money is not enough money. I see it more and more with exorbitant rents. Where it used to be that the rent would go up by $20, and you could find that amount in the budget, now they are being hiked up by $80 and $100. You just can’t compensate for that.

“Moving is an option that is looked at on a case-by-case basis. However, with the current rental climate, finding alternative accommodation is more challenging. Often it is not a realistic option. WINZ may help with the bond and rent in advance if the end result is an improvement. But if you are going to move for $10 reduction in rent and you’ve racked up $1000 in moving costs, then in reality are you any better off?”

Carmel says the plight of some families is heart-breaking, especially when children are involved and you know they are going hungry and their schooling is affected. Sometimes progress seems slim and slow.

“You can’t measure yourself with having great improvements in your clients’ finances. You will go a week and it is all hard. And then you will get a small win. It might just be someone telling a clothing truck, ‘No thanks, I’m not buying from you today.’ To me that is cause for celebration.”

Carmel’s tips for teaching children financial literacy

  • Let children handle money, and have some understanding of household finances, but not the really stressful stuff, so they get an appreciation of the value of money.
  • Turn everyday activities into a learning opportunity, and make it fun. For example, when you are in the checkout aisle with your groceries, ask your children to guess how much the till total will be. Who was closest?
  • If your children pester you to buy something and you know they have pocket money, tell them they can buy it with their own money. This often curbs their enthusiasm and teaches them the value of prioritising their spending – what is a need and what is just a want?

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