The Australian Government is continuing its support for the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), with a $3.5 million extension for existing service providers until 31 March 2016.
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the extension would provide certainty for clients and service providers, while allowing time for a merit-based competitive grants process to allocate a new round of contracts.
“The RFCS provides a vital service to farm businesses and other rural businesses, and this extension will allow counsellors to provide continuity of service for their clients,” Minister Joyce said.
“With the impacts of drought continuing to put pressure on farm businesses in many parts of the country, it is more important than ever that farmers have certainty about the services and support available to them.
“With about 120 qualified rural financial counsellors working across 14 regions nationally, the RFCS has been providing a valuable service to our farm businesses for almost 30 years—something we are committed to seeing continue well into the future.
“As part of our drought support package, we have already committed $1.8 million in additional funding to provide extra support and boost service hours in drought-affected areas—this is on top of the $14.3 million allocated to the programme for 2015–16.
“We have also been working to implement many of the recommendations of the National Rural Advisory Council review of the service to ensure it is best meeting the needs of clients,” Minister Joyce said.
Minister Joyce said the extension would apply to all 14 service providers across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia, and would also include funding for RFCS South Australia to continue providing the service in the Northern Territory.
The RFCS program provides grants to non-government organisations to provide free financial counselling to farmers, fishers and small dependent rural businesses that are suffering financial hardship and have no alternative sources of impartial support.
Source: Minister for Agriculture. For more information on the RFCS, visit agriculture.gov.au/rfcs. Information on the RFCS 2016-19 merit-based competitive grants round to select service providers will be available on the department’s website and the Austender website in due course.