- Increased support for Western Australians who need to access the Hardship Utility Grants Scheme
- New Bunbury service centre creating local jobs and training opportunities
- Working earlier with people at risk of having their essential utilities disconnected to help get their lives back on track
Community Services Minister Simone McGurk has officially opened a new service centre in Bunbury for people accessing the Hardship Utility Grants Scheme.
The new HUGS Service Centre will be operated by Anglicare on behalf of the Financial Counselling Network.
Its launch in Bunbury follows the establishment of the first HUGS Service Centre in Armadale, which opened mid-2018.
The Department of Communities approved 14,096 HUGS applications with a total value of $7.48 million in 2018-19.
Following these applications, 4,144 of the applicants were referred to the HUGS Service Centre.
This resulted in 89 per cent of applicants that had contact with the Centre receiving referrals for other support services, such as financial counselling, mental health practitioners, Foodbank, emergency relief, and parenting and family support.
The State Government has provided an additional $1.925 million in the 2019-20 Budget to grow the HUGS Service Centre. The expansion means all HUGS applicants will now be referred to the HUGS Service Centre and receive a greater level of support.
HUGS was set up in 2008 to assist people who are at risk of having their essential utilities disconnected because of financial hardship.
In recruiting staff for the new HUGS Service Centre, Anglicare WA adopted an innovative employment model.
It partnered with job network providers in Bunbury - so employment opportunities at the new Centre - went to job seekers who may have otherwise faced barriers to finding work.
These job seekers demonstrated the appropriate values and attitudes, a willingness and capability to learn new skills and deep empathy and respect for the clients who make contact.
Twelve candidates successfully completed the two-week induction and training program and are now working at the HUGS Service Centre.
Comments attributed to Community Services Minister Simone McGurk:
"The new HUGS Service Centres are part of a holistic shift from the Hardship Utility Grants Scheme being a mechanism to obtain a single grant payment, to overall financial hardship assessment and relief.
"Changes made to the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme over the past 18 months ensure financial assistance is targeted to those with the greatest need.
"By introducing third-party assessment, we can better identify people who need other forms of assistance before they reach a critical stage."
Comments attributed to Bunbury MLA Don Punch:
"People who are seeking support through HUGS will be able to receive a more comprehensive assessment of their needs and assistance in accessing other support services.
"Full implementation of the Bunbury HUGS Service Centre was achieved a month earlier than scheduled thanks to strong partnerships across Government, the community services sector and private sector HUGS stakeholders.
"Importantly, the establishment of this new service centre in Bunbury creates rewarding jobs and training opportunities for local residents."
Minister's office - 6552 5045