$4.3m allocated for whānau debt-relief agencies

By Bronson Perich

Debt-relief agencies help poverty-stricken whānau get out of debt. With unemployment expected to reach new heights, whānau are leaning on debt-relief services to help them manage their budgets. Agencies like Family Focus in Rotorua have financial mentors that work with whānau to manage their debts, and keep roofs over heads, and kai on tables. Michelle Nahu, heads the Family Focus budgeting services.

The government has allocated $4.3 million to fund these agencies' mahi.

Financial mentors

Nahu says helping whānau with finances is more than budgeting. Renegotiating debts, merging many loans into one, and helping whānau overcome their challenges, is what financial mentors do.

“We’re not just doing budgets anymore. We’re working with them (whānau) through all their crises and achieving goals,” Michelle Nahu says.

“Government funding has allowed us to employ specialist services like social workers and counselling.”

Nahu says it’s about rebuilding whānau, empowering people and ensuring their homes are safe.

No interest in profit

A Ngā Tāngata Microfinance case study - Photo / Facebook

Once a mentor has taken the right steps, they can then apply for up to $3,000 to merge whānau debts from Ngā Tāngata Microfinance or Good Shepherd. This is paid out as an interest-free loan. An additional $3,000 per whānau is available in some situations.

“We’re also working with lenders and broadening their loan criteria,” Nahu says.

"It's been there since 2017 but now they've increased the funding. Before it used to be a maximum of $3,000 but now it's increased to $6,000."

She says it will be an enormous help for families, especially where the breadwinners have lost their jobs.

Natalie Vincent, general manager of Ngā Tāngata Microfinance explains why they increased their funding cap.

“We saw the need to increase the funding because the communities have an even greater need now.”

Don't be whakamā

A case study of a whānau who had lost work due to Covid-19 - Photo / Facebook

Michelle Nahu says she's seen people lose their homes, people get evicted from their rentals, and whānau with no food.

"We know our families are in real poverty," she says.

"There are lots of things that are happening in the home that we as financial mentors see firsthand."

Nahu says she's happy that rōpu can provide services that can help. She wants whānau to contact Family Focus as soon as they need help.

"Don't wait! As soon as you start falling behind, please ring!" she says.

"These services are funded to help!"

Family Focus Rotorua can be reached at 07-346 2096, 1115 Pukaki Street, Rotorua 3010 or via https://www.familyfocus.org.nz/

The loans are available through any budgeting adviser around the country that works with Ngā Tāngata Microfinance or Good Shepherd.