Coming soon: Bay Financial Mentors – Tau Āwhi Noa

Say goodbye to Tauranga Budget Advisory Services…. and a big kia ora to Bay Financial Mentors – Tau Āwhi Noa.

General Manager Shirley McCombe (pictured above) says the service is changing its name in the next few months to better represent their community and their mahi.

It’s a big change for the organisation which has been in existence for 49 years in July – Shirley has been there for the last two.

There are about 20 staff who keep the organisation moving, with a mix of paid, volunteer, full-time, and part-time roles.

They have clients from Katikati to Ōtamarākau and deliver about 4500 sessions each year. This is from both their main office in Tauranga and through their clinics (including their mobile clinic).

Shirley says the new name and logo are to better represent the organisation and values they hold.

The service has been working on the name change with Whare PR and has undergone a lengthy consultation process with the team, their community, and local iwi. They shared the name with local kaumātua day, through their clinics and at community galas as well.

Shirley was careful to make sure they followed the correct tikanga when choosing the new name, and the design of their new logo is underway.

The logo will be representative of the three waka which originally settled in the area. It also acknowledges tangata whenua and respecting their place and role within the community.

“It’s about standing together – I support you and you support me without boundary, and without end,” she says.

And those connections are the key to helping their community: “I’m always looking at how we connect with people,” says Shirley.

“Now we’re meeting with others in the social services sector to say, how do we help you get the best results for your whānau? How can we work with you?”

Shirley says they also focus on having great relationships with other services in the community as they need each other’s support to get the best outcome for their clients – who are often using more than one service.

“Rather than coming in and providing a service with all guns blazing, we try and look at who has the relationship and how we can get alongside them and support their mahi.

“We find that works really well, particularly when you’re trying to connect with people who are a little bit bruised and battered by the system, and a bit hesitant to come forward.”

Shirley says people have traditionally approached the service as part of their requirements for benefit from Work and Income New Zealand.

This means people would often come in once or twice. Once this requirement was changed, numbers dropped significantly, and this was the time they decided to do things differently – the catalyst to their more collaborative approach.

And when COVID-19 arrived, the demand increased again. This includes a spike of people in paid employment.

Rather than become a wrap-around service, their focus is on making sure they work collaboratively in the community.

“What we need to do is have stronger relationships, so we have a shared vision for the community and the people we support and align our mahi, rather than everybody tugging at people trying to help.”

They work with people coming out of prison, students at universities and polytechnics, people living at both the mens’ and womens’ shelters, and community housing providers to name a few.

A place for everyone

The soon-to-be Bay Financial Mentors – Tau Āwhi Noa are aware of how important being inclusive is for their clients.

Shirley and the team have made sure to create a safe, welcoming environment for everyone.

“It is about how do we make people feel when they walk up these stairs, is this is a place that they belong and where they will be respected and welcomed?”  That is true for all people.

“For our Māori whānau, it is ensuring we practice whanaungatanga and manaakitanga.

“We know that to uphold a person’s mana we need to respect and acknowledge their tikanga, whakapapa, culture, and identity.”

Shirley says they’ve tried to incorporate more Te Reo Māori and improve vocabulary and pronunciation at the service. They offer karakia if that’s what’s important to the person as well. They also try to acknowledge the different iwi around the country.

“We have formed a rōpū to support and guide us on our journey and we want to know if there’s a concern in the community about a particular area or about somewhere that’s not being represented well,” she says.

Shirley says they’re working with the Pasifika community too, and they’re encouraging any feedback from the community about their approach.

“We’ve done some work with an LGBTQ trainer around the way in which we let people know that we will respect the pronoun or the name they choose to use.

“If you haven’t been part of that community, it doesn’t even occur to you that it’s something you should think about.

“It’s little things all the time. People are people. It’s about how you connect and respect and walk alongside them.”

Shirley says to make the staff aware of these cultural differences is important, so she ensures her team takes part in any of the training opportunities available to them.

And this kaupapa extends to the office itself. The service got rid of all their traditional desks, and now have lounge suits and coffee tables in the rooms.

“Someone came in the other day and said I feel like I’m coming home when I come here, and I thought ‘perfect, that’s what I wanted.”

They also offer sessions with their financial mentors over Zoom in the evenings, which is especially beneficial for couples who are both working and may struggle to make it to one of the clinics.

Making a difference

The financial mentors at Tauranga Budget Advisory Service can share a few examples of how they’ve helped people take control of their finances.

With the Doing Good Foundation, they’ve been able to help many people get into a position where they’re able to buy their first home. Shirley says this is a nice collaboration.

But the needs of their clients vary. Shirley says there is one homeless man, in particular, who stands out. She says this man came to the service for food and was living in a tent. He wouldn’t go to Work and Income for further support, and his mana didn’t allow him to stay with anyone. He had no food and no money.

Shirley says her financial mentors were able to support him to go along to Work and Income to get his benefit – now he is in work. She says the man still drops by now and again to see them.

“He wouldn’t have gone in for assistance without our support,” says Shirley. “We often see people who need support but won’t access services.”

There was another woman who was in a financially difficult position and suffering from depression. Within the day, the financial mentor they were working with was able to get their correct entitlement, back-pay, food and support.

She says they see people living in cars and those who are unwell. Credit contracts as also a big issue – such as the case with the man who had an accident in his car, and was able to get thousands of dollars back because of the hardship clause written into his contract.

In many cases, people are also being contacted by debt collectors out of the blue, and they’ve just started paying it. Financial mentors have often been able to get the debt cleared when the companies aren’t able to produce the correct paperwork.

Shirley says it’s a passion to help people make themselves financially stable which drives her and the financial mentors to do what they do.

“It’s about equity for me.”

And that equity will be reflected when their new name to Bay Financial Mentors – Tau Āwhi Noa in the coming months.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their finances, you can get in touch with Tauranga Budget Advisory Service on 07 578 0969 or our MoneyTalks helpline team on 0800 345 123 for support.