Women's Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE) has been providing NILS loans to women on low incomes since 2007, and was the first women's health service to provide loans for women leaving family violence. Financial conversations are central to the No Interest Loans (NILS) application process. These conversations provide a combination of support and information with discussion topics including budgeting, managing bills and education regarding the high cost of fringe lending. CENTSable provides a diagnostic tool to assess initial financial capacity which can inform a more targeted conversation.
The CENTSable website is an essential financial e-learning tool delivering practical information and resources (both national and state/territory) to support workers in the community sector to have informed financial conversations with women on low incomes. These conversations can assist clients to identify issues and challenges that reduce their capacity to manage their money well and help to improve their overall financial wellbeing. No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) participants and community service professionals were consulted via focus groups and interviews to inform the development of this website.
Aims & objectives
The CENTSable website was designed and implemented by WHGNE with the deliberate goal of providing relevant and useful resources and tools to assist community workers in their capacity to provide options for women when having a financial conversation and in particular when applying for a NILS loan.
WHGNE collaborated with Scott & Associates, a professional e-learning company to develop this e-learning tool over a period of two years. Consultations with NILS participants were held via focus groups across three regional towns. The women's input helped to inform the content of the website. Community service professionals across Australia, including financial counsellors, rural housing workers and family violence workers were interviewed to identify learning and resource needs.
Whilst the initial target was NILS workers, the website is accessible to all community service workers. The CENTSable website features 'Let's Talk About...' a Financial Wellbeing Guide, designed to assess financial capacity and inform a targeted conversation. The website is curated with targeted up-to-date live links to a wide variety of financial information, downloadable brochures and resources, and online training modules, covering key topics including Family Violence, Money & Finance, Housing, Legal, Insurance, Transport & Vehicles and Centrelink.
Good Shepherd Microfinance (GSM) acknowledged the value of this on-line resource for microfinance workers and the excellent work in researching and gathering the material, and authorised the display of the GSM and the NIL's logo on the CENTSable home page.
The evaluation of CENTSable completed by the University of Melbourne revealed that family violence was the biggest issue for people seeking financial assistance, with housing and utilities being the most common items of need. This was as expected and underlines the need to concentrate on the areas of family violence and housing for the future work on the CENTSable website. This evaluation also determined that the quality of the website was rated highly by those who had used it with 80% of respondents agreeing with the statement that 'CENTSable has improved my knowledge of support and resources.'
CENTSable is being used and promoted throughout the Money Minded and Saver Plus networks and has been incorporated into the WIRE – Money Workshops for women and professionals training.
For those workers who have used CENTsable the experience has been a very positive one. Increasing its use across the sector is a priority for the future.
To enable us to further CENTSable's reach, influence and potential we are seeking sponsorship to develop a community of interest via a subscription facility on the Home page; produce monthly e-newsletters with the latest news in the community finance sector; install quarterly updates for the IT framework to keep the website viable; and implement navigation options so that the website is utilised by the general community (in particular young women) not just workers.
Karen O'Connor, Microfinance Officer, WHGNE
This grant provided The Ian Potter Foundation with an excellent opportunity to amplify the impact of a single project across the community sector through the very successful NILS program.
This project is supporting community workers with the resources and tools necessary to have a conversation with women who access the NILS scheme to identify and address issues and challenges that reduce their capacity to manage their money well.
The CENTSable website is very comprehensive and is now being promoted throughout the Money Minded and Saver Plus networks and has been incorporated into the WIRE-Money Workshops for women and professionals training.
The Foundation is very pleased to have contributed to the creation of a resource that will have an impact throughout the community sector for many years to come.
Dr Alberto Furlan, Senior Program Manager