Anglicare volunteers help to connect Tasmanians on low incomes with micro-loans that have no interest, fees or charges.
Safe, fair and affordable loans are available through the No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) for the purchase of essentials such as household goods, education needs, car costs, and some medical and dental expenses.
Last week, NILS Tasmania marked its 20,000th loan to assist people with the cost of living.
Jill Finch has volunteered at Anglicare for more than five years, supporting people to apply for NILS loans.
“I have met some courageous people who are battling pretty big odds,” she said.
“People often don’t have a buffer. They are going along nicely and then something happens – they become ill or there’s a big bill they weren’t expecting – and they just don’t have the savings in the bank to do what they need to do,” she explained.
“I guess the ones that struggle quite a lot are people on Newstart because it is such a low payment and they often have to have quite imaginative ways of keeping their lives going. There is no room for extras at all”.
“Just saving is quite hard when you are on such a small income,” she said.
Jill has linked around 60 people a year with a NILS loan. She said it was gratifying to be able to offer a safe alternative. “There are other loans out there but people often don’t realise how much interest they’ll have to pay,” she said. “I’ve had people come in and say ‘oh, but I’ll only have to pay off $20 a fortnight”. But then I explain “yes, but you might be paying that for the next 15 years.”
Jill became a volunteer at Anglicare after retiring from her job as a community pharmacist. “This suits me because it is quite practical and based on appointment times. I was used to speaking with a wide variety of people, mostly elderly. But this job has given me much more contact with younger people which has been quite interesting”.
In the north of the state, volunteer Leona de Quincey has been helping with NILS applications for the past three years.
“I think NILS is fantastic,” she said. “People on low incomes don’t have that money there if something breaks down. NILS means they can avoid schemes where people get trapped and pay a lot of interest as well as a monthly accounting fee, which is all wasted money”.
“It is very satisfying. People really appreciate it because you’ve helped get them out of a sticky situation,” said Leona. “I think it’s a brilliant scheme”.
The efforts of Jill and Leona were recognised at a special ceremony last Friday, where Premier Will Hodgman presented distinguished service awards.
To be eligible for a NILS loan, applicants must have a current health card, pension card or DVA card. Loans are available for the purchase of new items and services such as fridges, washing machines, computers, text books, mobility equipment, dentures, car tyres and repairs.
There are also micro-loans for family violence support, refugee family reunions, and to cover costs related to starting or growing a business.
NILS has had an extraordinary 97% repayment rate over its 20,000 loan history. When the money is repaid, it is issued again in loans to others on low incomes.
NILS executive officer Rick Tipping said it was a wonderful partnership of the community sector, government and corporate supporters. "NILS is the outcome of a research report done by Anglicare back in 2000," he said. "This led to an application for funding and support from the State Government. Anglicare's vision for a cooperative project has led to NILS Tasmania being the most successful provider of no-interest loans in the country," Rick said.