Media release: More whānau facing mental health, housing and other COVID-19 related financial challenges – financial mentors report

Financial mentors committed to their communities across Aotearoa are coping with the increased strain created by COVID-19 – but only just.

FinCap is calling for ongoing, sustainable funding for all financial mentors’ vital work as new data reveals they’re facing increased pressure because of COVID-19, housing issues and mental health.

A survey run late last year looked to identify the impact of COVID-19 on the workload of financial mentors and on the whānau they support.

FinCap has released the resulting Impacts of COVID-19 on building financial capability: 2021 snapshot today.

“The cases are more complex, with many mental health issues. We have now had to extend the appointment times to two to three hours as opposed to the one to two hours previously,” reports a financial mentor.

Work on avoiding eviction due to rent arrears, getting access to emergency housing and costs associated with poor quality rental accommodation were also highlighted by the financial mentors surveyed.

The report finds current funding levels are behind community demand and more than three quarters of our nation’s committed financial mentors are working unpaid hours to get results for whānau.

FinCap knows Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni and the wider Government recognise and support the hard work of financial mentors in our communities.

A 2020 increase in funding for financial mentoring services from the Ministry of Social Development to help with the expected increase in demand with COVID-19 has been a welcome relief for those services. Currently this is scheduled up to June 2022.

Chief executive Ruth Smithers says a commitment to ongoing, sustainable funding for all financial mentors will see them able to continue focusing on what’s important – the whānau they support.

“People working with financial mentors are often facing challenges that significantly undermine their wellbeing. The brilliant support financial mentors provide see many whānau overcome these issues and get back to what they do best in our local communities,” she says.

“Some services receive no funding and many are working extra unfunded hours. Looking for funding to make the support they provide viable means more stress and constraints on their time sharing valuable expertise with the people who need them most.”

Ruth expects workloads to increase significantly going forward and creating a resilient sector means financial mentors will be able to continue to support those in need. She looks forward to working with the Government to make sure financial mentors continue to go from strength to strength with their mahi in 2022.

Reports in recent days of around two-thirds of those in work giving a poor rating to their own financial capability to manage a three-month period without work are concerning. This highlights the need for sustainably funded expert financial mentors ready to go on the ground.”