Australians are turning to the free National Debt Helpline.
Australians are turning to the free National Debt Helpline.

Calls for financial help hit all-time high

EXCLUSIVE

CASH-strapped Australians burdened by inflated utility bills and soaring credit card debts are flocking to financial help services in record numbers.

The National Debt Helpline has been inundated with households in financial distress with latest figures showing in 2017 they received 170,000 calls - the highest ever on record.

This is a 12 per cent spike on the previous year - about 3270 calls are made to the helpline every week.

Financial Counselling Australia's executive director Fiona Guthrie said increased monetary pressures on households had resulted in help services being flooded with calls.

More Australians are finding themselves dealing with financial issues. Picture: Supplied
More Australians are finding themselves dealing with financial issues. Picture: Supplied

"There is a clearly a really big problem with financial stress in the Australian community,'' she said.

"The debt helpline mainly helps people with credit card debt and the second most problem is utility bill."

Latest Reserve Bank of Australia data shows Australians have more than $52.2 billion of credit card debt and more than $31.6 billion is accruing interest.

While the nation's card debt has fallen slightly in recent months cards the amount owing still remains high and many cards often attract interest rates often around 20 per cent.

Power prices are also to be blamed for many people calling for help - in 2017 electricity prices in some states rose by up to 20 per cent and added another $600 a year to household expenses.

Consumer finance expert Lisa Montgomery said despite record low interest rates cost of living increases and increased loan balance had put "enormous pressure on the household budget."

Consumer finance expert Lisa Montgomery says increased household loans are putting more people under financial pressure. Picture: Supplied
Consumer finance expert Lisa Montgomery says increased household loans are putting more people under financial pressure. Picture: Supplied

"More and more people are finding themselves in this position as they use credit to support essential and lifestyle costs,'' she said.
"If you find yourself unable to meet commitments you should call your credit provider immediately to work a solution before you go into default- the sooner you do this the better."

Ms Guthrie warns Australians to refrain from paying for financial advice and instead seek free help.

Financial Counselling Australia’s executive director Fiona Guthrie urges people to act early if they are facing financial problems. Picture: Supplied
Financial Counselling Australia’s executive director Fiona Guthrie urges people to act early if they are facing financial problems. Picture: Supplied

"Act early because the longer you leave these issues the less options you have and talk to your bank or credit provider because they will want to work with you,'' she said.

"And if those things don't help come and speak to a free and independent financial counsellor on the national debt helpline."

Other financial helplines have also been inundated with calls - it's understood the Commonwealth Bank's dedicated domestic and family violence package hotline has had to put on more staff in recent weeks due to high call volumes.



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