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FCAWA 2011 CONFERENCE Coming Together is a Beginning. Keeping Together is Progress. Working Together is Success. Bulk Debt Negotiations Dennis Nelthorpe OAM-Footscray Legal Centre 1
Whose Rules Rule? National Bulk Debt Project Denis Nelthorpe, West Heidelberg CLS Julie Maron , Legal Aid NSW Aimee Cooper, Victoria Legal Aid September 2011
Why “bulk debt”? Centrelink recipients – no assets Multiple problems including: ◦ ◦ Homelessness or threat of eviction Mental illness Illness and chronic ill health Alcohol and drug addiction Clients with serious social problems and some associated debt Not Debtors with associated social problems
Bulk Debt – the Rules Purpose of Centrelink Payments ◦ Keep a roof over head! ◦ Keep food in the fridge! ◦ Keep the lights on! Centrelink Income is Protected ◦ Section 60 Social Security (Admin) 1991 ◦ Section 12 JDRA (Vic) Best Practice in Debt Negotiation ◦ ◦ Effective and efficient use of resources Financial Counselling is a valuable resource
Whose rules rule? Financial Counsellors are subject to rules from: Governments, Regulators, Ombudsman Creditors and Debt Collectors Hardship teams Community Agencies + Funders
When the rules won’t work… Periods of Hardship – internal accounting definitions Prudential definitions of hardship – an urban myth - Unrelated to client hardship Capacity to negotiate – are they “allowed”? Working to a script – Don’t participate
…play by your own rules! A Financial Counsellor is entitled to expect: ◦ A competent negotiator – two way discussion ◦ A knowledge of hardship + Centrelink Refuse to negotiate with unqualified staff ◦ Seek a manager or IDR
Your rules are not made to be broken! Provide an authority once - only Refuse to provide unnecessary information Financial profiles are often unnecessary – refer to SACOSS statistics on costs of living Centrelink Statements contain required information.
Bulk Debt 2. 0 12 months expanded project WH CLC, VLA, NSW LA National collection through website 450 Agencies and workers registered to participate
National Bulk Debt Project creditors A total of 1494 debts collected = $7. 4 million Credit Corp Baycorp GE Finance ACMS Telstra AGL 242 240 353 182 341 126 debts debts
National Bulk Debt Project Centrelink Recipients Aged Pension Carers DSP Newstart Parenting Other Centrelink 11% 5% 41% 20% 18% 5% No income 2%
National Bulk Debt Project Progress Report - ?
National Bulk Debt Project Next Round of Collections Likely to begin in late February 2012 Concentration on Banks: ◦ CBA + Westpac ◦ Citibank + HBSC Debt Collection companies: ◦ Collection House – Lion Finance Utilities –May depend on funding + partners: ◦ ◦ Origin + TXU Optus + Vodafone
www. bulkdebt. org From 30 June 2011 until 30 July 2012 Website looks like this:
Our rules for other debts EDR financial hardship submissions – Application to EDR based on financial hardship – Acknowledgement Centrelink income protected – Acknowledgement client can’t pay – Finding that it is not fair or reasonable to continue to contact the debtor – Creditor required to advise any debt-buyer – Limit contact with the debtor - only to determine whether their circumstances have changed
Bulk Debt – The Rules Expect respect! Provide information with integrity Act in the best interests of your client Be in it for the long haul!