Financial counsellors more than just drought support

Financial counsellors more than just drought support


Opinion
Aa

BY CUTTING funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service in western NSW, government is taking away more than just drought support.

Aa

IN CUTTING the total funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service areas of Bourke and Central West - which are soon to be combined into one region - the government is taking away more than just drought support.

The service is generally seen as something that only has a role during times of hardship, but its place in remote areas of the state - where financial planners or accountants are thin on the ground, if present at all - includes business savvy and financial preparedness skills and advice.

Finance management and business savvy isn't something a lot of farmers are often trained in or naturally good at, regardless of how good a farmer they are, but such skills can help them make better decisions around preparedness - a cornerstone of the government's drought focus.

Such skills can also help a business be sustainable and grow.

In this sense, the counsellors are educators as well as a support service.

By cutting the funding to this region - which is what appears to be happening in the proposed figures for 2016-17, including reducing counsellors by more than half - government is limiting the ability of that community to not only make it out of this drought successfully, but to prepare for the next drought.

The advantage of having counsellors in an area for a period of time is the farmers get the opportunity to sit down and work through the paperwork with them, picking up the skills as they go.

The process exposes farmers to hands-on business acumen, which includes business planning and negotiations with their banks.

Having access to this style of service is the difference between telling farmers what they should be doing and equipping them to do it themselves.

Given these communities were led by the government to believe no cuts to these services would be made, it's no wonder they're disappointed.

Meanwhile, the counsellors are still needed to assist farmers with the complexities of the paperwork they must go through to apply for services such as low interest loans.

Yet, the fewer counsellors will be stretched to cover a region equivalent to half the state.

The more these services are cut, the more likely farmers in that region will be walking back through those same old doors for support when the next drought comes.

The story Financial counsellors more than just drought support first appeared on Farm Online.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by