Susan Brader, chairwoman of the Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

Big blow for the region

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

In a crushing blow to Wairarapa residents with money worries, the Free Budget Advisory Service is closing its doors after 26 years of service, having failed to find an adequate funding solution.

Since 1994, the organisation has committed to providing an affordable service for its clients, many of them struggling to survive on the poverty line.

It was now unable to continue operating due to unsecured funding. Their chairwoman has even had to forego her salary for two years to keep the service afloat.

Last year, a meeting was held to decide the fate of service. It grew unruly quickly.

Around 80 people attended the session at Wairarapa Sports House, where it was unanimously decided that the service should continue.

Emotions ran high, particularly as this was the last port of call for a lot of people who had hit financial rock bottom.

Yesterday, however, the word was final. Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service would close permanently.

This news runs in a similar vein to prior complaints from the Wairarapa Citizens Advice Bureau [another free community service], who said they were also struggling with funding, having been leaned upon heavily after the switch to digital service provision from the government.

Susan Brader, the chairwoman of the Free Budget Advisory Service, said that government and non-government funding had declined significantly over the past few years.

“There have been changes to our contracted funding which has meant we have less money to pay for the services we provide.”

Brader said there were further costs associated with them relocating offices, which prompted the organisation to question its ability to keep assisting clients.

It was thought that difficulties in attracting qualified staff to the area were also at play in the decision.

Brader said she was sad that the service was closing, and it would now be focusing on transitioning their existing clients to other support platforms.

“The decision has been tough on everyone involved.

“Our clients are our priority – we’re asking them to call us [06 377 0017] to make an appointment to get advice and support for the next steps.”

Connecting Communities Wairarapa, who receive funding from the Ministry of Social Development, offer a free budgeting service, Building Financial Capabilities, to which people can self-refer if they are at risk of financial hardship and need advice.

Clients of MSD were also being advised to discuss the winding down of the Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service with their local office.



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