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'Busier than we've ever been': Government pulls funding for budgeting service

Ethan Griffiths,
Publish Date
Tue, 7 May 2024, 3:42pm

'Busier than we've ever been': Government pulls funding for budgeting service

Ethan Griffiths,
Publish Date
Tue, 7 May 2024, 3:42pm

A Wellington budgeting service has had its government funding pulled, despite its manager saying they are “busier than ever” as people struggle with high interest rates and the cost of living.

It comes as the Ministry of Social Development reviews its contracts with budgeting services.

It’s understood other providers across the country have had their funding cut.

The Wellington Budget Service, run in conjunction with the Citizens Advice Bureau, is staffed predominantly by volunteers but requires funding to pay for a part-time manager and office and IT equipment.

It has been funded by MSD since 2017. Last year it received $77,000.

Manager David Cameron told Newstalk ZB Wellington Mornings host Nick Mills that without funding, it’s possible the service could close.

“We’re very disappointed, there is a lot of need out there at the moment.”

The service saw around 470 people last year, and demand has grown 60 per cent since the beginning of 2024.

Cameron says clients are often deep in debt, or struggling with their mortgage.

The organisation helps clients create budgets and negotiates debt payments directly with creditors. All services are free.

“There are other budgeting services in Wellington, but we’re all very busy. Other services refer some of their clients to us.

“We expect we’ll start to see a few more people as the cuts to the public service start to kick in.”

In a statement, MSD’s general manager safe strong families and communities Mark Henderson said the Ministry had recently completed a procurement process for budgeting providers across the country.

The total funding available was reduced as a result of a Covid-19-specific fund for budgeting services expiring.

But the Wellington Budget Service was funded prior to Covid-19. After further questions, Henderson referred to a general procurement process.

“Preferred providers have been identified following a robust procurement process and unfortunately Wellington Citizens Advice bureau were unsuccessful.

“We recognise there is a continuing need for support in Wellington and will ensure that [budgeting] services continue to be provided in the region.”

Questions asking if the government’s directive to departments to reduce expenditure contributed to the cuts were not addressed.

Ethan Griffiths is the Executive Producer of Wellington Mornings with Nick Mills on Newstalk ZB. He worked for the NZ Herald for three years, mostly as a crime and justice reporter.

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here.

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