Maria* is 68-years-old. She has been living alone for many years following a divorce. Maria is unable to work due to chronic medical conditions, however, she is still paying off a home loan and is saddled with two credit card debts which her aged disability pension doesn’t come close enough to helping with.
Finances regularly top our list of worries according to the annual Stress and wellbeing report by the Australian Psychological Society. With the report indicating that “Financial issues are rated as the top cause of stress over the five years, while also of concern is the increase in the number of people turning to gambling to manage stress.”
According to The Economist, Australians lose more money gambling per person than any other nation.
“People often turn to gambling to get away from their financial stress and hope they might get lucky, but really it’s the quickest way to lose your money and make the situation worse,” Vanessa Lozada, Problem Gambling Counsellor at CatholicCare Social Services, said.
CatholicCare Social Services has recently opened an outreach site located at Richmond Community Services & Neighbourhood Centre at 20 West Market Street where they provide free and confidential financial counselling, as well as problem gambling counselling.
For a poker machine, the odds of winning are 1 in 9.7 million according to gamblinghelponline.org.au which states: “Each spin on a pokie machine is completely random. A common belief is that if we play long enough we will eventually win. This is a misconception.”
The enormous revenue from poker machines goes to companies such as Woolworths; one of the largest owners of poker machines in Australia.
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Research by the Centre for Social Impact conducted for National Australia Bank found that two million Australians are experiencing severe or high financial stress, while a further 10 million are living with some level of financial worry.
Often financial stress is made worse by feeling hopeless about the situation. But experts are keen to get the message out: help is available.
“Many people aren’t aware of the free financial counselling available and the assistance they can provide,” Linda Davis, Manager of Financial Counselling and Problem Gambling at CatholicCare Social Services, said.
“There’s a lack of understanding of what the service is and what it does; financial counsellors can be incredibly proactive.
“If you’re feeling stressed you’re probably not in a good frame of mind to negotiate with your utilities company but a financial counsellor can do that on your behalf.”
This is the kind of support that helped Maria get on top of her money worries. With the help of one of CatholicCare’s financial counsellors, one of her debts was waived ($1,300), and for the other debt of $6,500 the counsellor arranged for a long-term instalment of $20 per month, without interest or other charges, which Maria has been able to pay off each month.
Financial counselling and problem gambling appointments in Richmond can be made by calling (02) 8843 2500 or by emailing Linda.Davis@ccss.org.au.
*Name changed to protect privacy.