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Rebuilding lives after domestic and family violence

Alison King provides ongoing support to those accessing Salvos Loans.

This Anti-Poverty Week 2021, The Salvation Army is encouraging anyone struggling financially to reach out and seek help early, before reaching crisis-point. However, the reality for those escaping domestic and family violence (DFV) is often an unavoidable and immediate financial emergency. 

The Salvation Army’s Moneycare free financial counselling service recently established a new interest-free DFV loan initiative, known as Salvos Loans.  

Supported by Westpac, the service is giving those who have faced DFV, the opportunity to take out a no-interest loan of up to $5,000 to relocate and set up a new home. Free Salvation Army Moneycare financial counselling and the Positive Lifestyle program will also be available as part of the initiative.  

Salvos Loans began in response to an identified need for more financial support for those impacted by DFV to establish themselves in safe, secure housing.  

“The demand has been huge,” says Ross Norgate, the Salvos NSW/ACT Microfinance Coordinator. 

“These needs have certainly increased in recent times; we believe in great part due to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions and the stress and isolation it has caused people.”

Support for new beginnings 

Those who have accessed the service, have taken out loans to pay for costs associated with moving into and setting up a new home, including purchasing white goods and installing security. 

A unique feature of the service is its investment in wrap-around support for community members being assisted with a loan. 

Project officer Alison King helps to connect the community member with a DFV support worker, then works through the Salvos Positive Lifestyle Program with them, as well as offering support with financial counselling and money management.

“Conversations from The Salvation Army’s ‘You’re The Boss’ program assists recipients with budgeting strategies and also to achieve or work towards financial independence,” Alison says.

“Within this program different aspects of an individual’s financial situation are explored through creating new money habits, finding plans that are right for the individual, paying bills, discussing debts and insurance, shopping smart and other money saving tips.” 

Paying back up to $5,000 on a limited income, can be a long journey and each recipient is given up to three years to make the repayments. Alison makes sure each loan recipient feels supported throughout the process.

“[I really work to] keep that rapport or build on that rapport so that they stay engaged and continue to repay their loan and keep me notified if there are any struggles,” she says. 

One community member, who can’t be identified, wrote to Alison to thank her for the ‘above-and-beyond’ support the service gave, saying, “Thank you so, so, much for all of this. I really appreciate it. Because of you, my kids and I won’t be homeless anymore, and we can have a better and happier life.” 

One-of-a-kind service

“This is something that is not available anywhere else at this point in time,” says Brad McIver, the Salvos State Social Mission and Community Engagement Coordinator, who was part of the development of the new initiative.

“It’s The Salvation Army identifying a really critical need and then responding most effectively. As a faith-organisation, motivated by the love of Jesus, we see it as incredibly important to bring deep and practical care into such difficult circumstances.

“We have seen that the ability to have access to up to $5,000 with no interest is absolutely life-changing. People, perhaps for their first time in a long time, are experiencing freedom in all the senses of the word with an invitation to something more [through the Positive Lifestyle Program and other additional supports offered].” 

Brad, who sits on the loan assessment committee for Salvos Loans, says that assessing the loans has given him much insight into just how difficult and traumatic the circumstances are around family and domestic violence.  

Increasing demand and scope 

Brad says demand has increased over the course of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. 

“We are certainly seeing an increase in the instance of DFV violence, and therefore an increase in the need and demand for the service,” he says.   

“We also see a future need, to include people ‘at risk’ of domestic violence but who have not yet experienced an incident. 

“We have already seen many lives transformed as a result of this flexible, responsive and timely access to a no-interest loan. The flexible draw-down facility of the loan structure has also been proven to be of value [in] providing stability and confidence for participants as they continue their journey to safety, security and freedom.” 

For more details email salvosloans@salvationarmy.org.au         

Words by Lauren Martin and Naomi Singlehurst

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