Media Release by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Australians in need gaining greater access to affordable loans

Australians under financial pressure are gaining greater access to Australian Government backed affordable loans to provide essentials for their homes, the Minister for Community Services, Julie Collins MP, has announced today.

In 2011, there were 16,409 loans written under the No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) and StepUP program helping low income earners buy household necessities. This compared to 10,547 loans written in the previous year.

In 2011, the total value of loans to low-income Australians under the NILS program was $13.1 million, compared to $8.8 million in 2010.

“Many Australians in financial hardship face challenges in buying essentials, such as fridges, washing machines and used cars, because they don’t have a credit rating or don’t have the savings,” Ms Collins said.

“The Australian Government has stepped in to assist low-income families so they don’t have to access high-cost alternative credit.

“These programs give them the practical means to get back on their feet.

“The schemes are making a real difference in people’s lives. For example, a mother of four from central NSW was able to buy four new beds for her children.

“She had been refused credit and her children were sleeping on the floor until she found out about the NILS program in her local community.

“NILS staff helped her work out a budget with affordable payments and she has now applied for another loan to buy other household goods for her and her children,” Ms Collins said.

The Australian Government began providing funds to the loan programs run by Good Shepherd following the Global Financial Crisis. Good Shepherd runs the programs in partnership with the National Australia Bank, which issues the loan capital.

The Australian Government provided $17.9 million in 2009 to 2011 and renewed funding in the current Budget of another $18.5 million over the next three years.

NILS loans range from $800 to $1,200 and have a repayment period between one and one and a half years at zero per cent interest.

StepUP loans are between $800 and $3,000, with a low fixed interest rate, no fees and a repayment period of up to three years.

Both programs are open to anyone who holds a Pension or Health Care Concession card.

The common uses of the loans have remained relatively stable over time, with fridges, washing machines and other household appliances comprising around 60 per cent of all NILS loans and used vehicles or vehicle repairs making up about half of StepUp loans.