Thousands in our community are struggling financially right now. Whether they have lost their job, business is dwindling, or debts are racking up, the post-lockdown climate has left many unsure of where to turn for help.
One local charity working to support people through their tough financial circumstances is Tauranga Budget Advisory Service (TBAS).
They provide a number of services including free, one-on-one financial mentoring, advocacy, support, negotiation with creditors, debt management tools, seminars/workshops, and referrals to other social service organisations including the Foodbank.
TBAS works with a huge range of people finding themselves in financial difficulty including those on low incomes, people who have lost their jobs, or those whose situation has changed following a relationship break up or the loss of a partner.
They often work with some of our community’s most vulnerable including those impacted by homelessness, disability, poor mental health, domestic violence, addiction, and social deprivation, providing more than just advice, but the support needed to help turn lives around.
As well as their nine clinics in locations from Katikati through to Maketu, they also have mentors on site at the Tauranga Moana Night Shelter, Awhina House, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi and Tauranga Community Housing Trust.
Shirley McCombe, Tauranga Budget Advisory Service Manager, says they are seeing more and more clients who have never engaged with their service before.
“Since the lockdown, our numbers have continued to increase. We are having many approaching us to access their Kiwisaver as they see no other way of making ends meet during this time.”
Shirley says the lockdown forced their clients to borrow, load credit cards, shift in with family and try to find new employment in order to survive.
“For our clients who are homeless, it has meant moving into emergency housing, for those on benefit, it has meant the additional expense of having children home from school, such as food and heating. For our clients who have lost jobs or reduced hours it has varied, some have had to tighten their belts while others have really struggled.
But Shirley says people shouldn’t feel like they have to face the financial stress on their own.
“Our message to everyone is please, please come and see us. There are things we can do to help including advocating for assistance, negotiating with creditors, pursuing hardship clauses, accessing power credits and interest-free loans.
“We can assist with Kiwisaver withdrawals, but we will make sure you have looked at all the other options first. We can negotiate Debt Repayment Orders and if necessary No Asset Procedures and Bankruptcy. There is no cost, no judgement and clients tell us that they feel so much stronger, knowing they don’t have to deal with everything on their own.”
One of the charity’s services is the Total Money Management (TMM) programme, which supports clients who are experiencing financial difficulties and need intensive support to manage their finances.
TMM clients have bank accounts in their own name, held and administered by Tauranga Budget Advisory Service, who coordinate their day-to-day finances, ensuring bills are paid and savings created.
While for some this may be temporary while they learn the skills they need to get back on track, for others, this may be a service they require on an ongoing basis.
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service received TECT funding earlier this year to cover the administrative work involved in managing over 174 bank accounts for their 87 clients as part of the programme.
With no government funding for the TMM administrative work, Shirley says the $52,832 in TECT funding has enabled them to continue their service.
“This service supports some of our most vulnerable clients, but is not fully funded. Support from TECT has enabled us to continue this vital service and expand our workforce. We are so grateful we have this funding secured, particularly during these months where demand is high and so many in our community are in need.”
TECT Trustee Mark Arundel says the TMM programme is a vital service in our region.
“The Total Money Management programme is an incredibly valuable service, and we’re lucky to have it in our region supporting those most in need to get on the right path to a brighter future.
“We know there is a considerable amount of work that happens in the background managing accounts, creating budgets, negotiating repayments and liaising with other agencies as part of the programme. We’re so pleased TECT’s funding can support that – it’s providing assurance that Tauranga Budget Advisory Service can continue their work and respond to the additional service demands.”