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Financial counselling review announced post-royal commission

The Coalition government has announced its intention to conduct an immediate review of financial counselling services, in the wake of the final report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. 

In a joint statement this afternoon, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher acknowledged the comments of Commissioner Hayne in the final report, in which the former High Court judge observed that "the desirability of predictable and stable funding for the legal assistance sector and financial counselling services is clear and how this may best be delivered is worthy of careful consideration". 

Commissioner Hayne made no recommendation in regard to a review of financial counselling, the government mused, but proclaimed that it recognises that this is a "vital service used by thousands of Australians every year".

"For this reason, we are commencing an immediate review that will focus on the coordination and funding of financial counselling services. It will consider gaps and overlaps in current services and the adequacy of appropriate delivery models for future funding," it said.

Financial counselling services – funded by the Department of Social Services – face a number of challenges, the government continued, including inconsistent and short-term grant-based funding streams, fragmented delivery across jurisdictions and high demand.

"This review is a chance to increase predictability and stability in funding for financial counselling, as well as consider whether funding sources can be broadened. States and territories, private and not-for-profit funders, the financial services sector and those involved in service delivery will be consulted."

Speaking in response to the announced review, Financial Counselling Australia CEO Fiona Guthrie said: "FCA and financial counsellors are delighted that the government recognises the immediate need for predictable and stable funding of financial counselling." 

"We welcome the review into the capacity of existing services to meet growing demand, as well as the adequacy and source of future funding. We look forward to working with the government on this review," she said. 

The review will be led by the Department of Families and Social Services in consultation with Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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