Loans get violence survivors back on their feet
Loans get violence survivors back on their feet
25 June 2021
The Salvation Army Moneycare financial counselling service has added to its range of programs a new support initiative to assist women impacted by domestic and family violence (DFV).
The initiative, called Salvos Loans, which Westpac supports, will give women the opportunity to take out a no-interest loan of up to $5000 to relocate and set up a new home. Free financial counselling and the existing No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) will still be available as part of the initiative.
Salvos Loans began in late 2020 in response to an identified need for more financial support for women impacted by DFV to establish themselves in safe, secure housing.
It is overseen by The Salvation Army NSW/ACT Microfinance Coordinator Ross Norgate and has a dedicated worker, Alison King, who said she had been surprised by the level of demand. “We haven’t done any advertising,” said Alison, with Ross adding, “The demand has been huge.”
Support for new beginnings
Most women accessing the new Moneycare service have taken out loans to pay for costs associated with moving into a new home, setting up a home with white goods, and security.
One woman even purchased a second-hand car, according to Alison. “There’s also been TV and phone expenses,” she said, “because they need a high-tech security system, and they need an updated phone and TV for their security system, so it really is for safety purposes.”
A unique part of Salvos Loans is its investment in wrap-around support for the women being assisted. Alison helps to connect them with a domestic violence support worker [if they don’t already have one] and works through the Army’s Positive Lifestyle Program with them, as well as financial counselling and budgeting tips.
“Conversations from the Army’s ‘You’re the Boss’ program assists recipients with budgeting strategies and also to achieve or work towards financial independence,” Alison said. “Within this program, different aspects of an individual’s financial situation are explored through creating new money habits, finding plans that are right for the individual, paying bills, discussing debts and insurance, shopping smart and other money-saving tips.”
Paying back up to $5000 for women on limited incomes is a long journey, and each recipient is given up to three years to make the repayments. Alison makes sure each loan recipient feels supported throughout the process.
“[I really try to] keep that rapport or build on that rapport so that they stay engaged and continue to repay their loan and keep me notified if there are any struggles,” she said. “I write birthday cards for the women and their children. An eight-year-old girl was so excited to have a birthday card because they don’t have anyone – any family or anything – as they’ve come from overseas. So, those little things really make a difference to the family as well.”
One woman wrote to Alison to thank her for the “above-and-beyond” support, saying, “Thank you so, so, much for all of this. I really appreciate it. Because of you, my kids and I won’t be homeless anymore, and we can have a better and happier life.”
“This is something that is not available anywhere else at this point in time,” said Captain Brad McIver, The Salvation Army State Social Mission and Community Engagement Coordinator (NSW/ACT Division), who was part of the development of Salvos Loans. “It’s The Salvation Army identifying a really critical need and a very practical way that we can respond with the love of Jesus to that circumstance.”
Brad sits on the loan assessment committee for Salvos Loans. He said assessing the loans has given him much insight into just how difficult and traumatic the circumstances are around domestic and family violence.
“We have seen that ability to have access to up to $5000 with no interest, that can be used for relocation for the establishment of a new tenancy and for the purchase of essential items – white goods and furniture – is absolutely life-changing.
“So, it’s really broken the shackles ... I think that’s the best way I can put it,” he said. “People, perhaps for the first time in a long time, are experiencing freedom in all the senses of the word with an invitation to something more [through the Positive Lifestyle Program and other supports offered].”
And, he said, it’s the type of innovation The Salvation Army has been known of in its early days and is continuing to move forward with.
“[It’s] that very exciting part of Salvationism and The Salvation Army that says we will be creative, we will be courageous, and we’ll step out – perhaps at times when others wouldn’t – to make sure that people who need our help the most, get it when they need it.”