The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne has been commissioned by Kildonan UnitingCare to develop and implement the evaluation framework for an innovative response to tackle financial hardship.
Partnering with a range of businesses, community agencies, the state government and Swinburne University of Technology, CareRing involves Kildonan UnitingCare working directly with businesses to identify vulnerable customers at the earliest stages of financial stress.
This Australian-first project aims to ‘triage’ financial issues and facilitate debt relief and payment plans, while also screening for co-occuring issues that could be contributing to or compounding problems.
Professor Jo Barraket, CSI Swinburne Director and project leader, said CareRing is an innovative upstream response to the needs of people experiencing financial stress.
“CSI Swinburne is happy to be partnering with Kildonan to develop a social impact measurement framework that supports learning from the initiative and helps grow its impacts over time,” Professor Barraket said.
As utility bills continue to escalate, Kildonan CEO Stella Avramopoulos said the percentage of middle-class debt is also on the rise.
“Three years ago, 90% of our clients were Centrelink customers – today it’s 70%. So that means 30% of people seeking our help have jobs or don’t qualify for government assistance – yet still can’t make ends meet.”
Ms Avramopoulos said it is more important than ever to intervene early and provide families with holistic support, before issues take hold or escalate.
“Kildonan’s experience is that when an individual reaches out for help with financial issues, there are often several other issues at play – and getting the right help, early and easily – is vital,” Ms Avramopoulos said.
Participating partners such as Yarra Valley Water and ANZ can refer customers into CareRing – a centralised, coordinated point of contact whereby one phone call can connect people into a range of support services, without people having to go to multiple agencies.
Kildonan and Yarra Valley Water have been running a pilot of the program over the past six months, and will formally launch CareRing with a range of other participating corporates on December 9.