Date of Award

1-1-1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science(Consumer Science)

Faculty

Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering

First Advisor

Susan Nulsen

Abstract

The development of financial counselling in Australia during the past decade has been complex and fragmented. Financial counselling and rural counselling services within Western Australia are funded from a range of government, non-government and church based groups. This has contributed to problems in the identification of basic definitions of the need for services, the role of the financial counsellor and service models or functions. The failure to define the role of the financial counsellor and the needs to be addressed by financial counselling services, "appears to be the most important historic weakness in the field." (Wyse et al., 1990, p.2). A consequence of the initial failure to define the role of the financial counsellor has meant that definitions have evolved retrospectively rather than in a planned fashion in response to need. This conflict and confusion over the role of financial counsellors has created a situation where financial counsellors may not have a shared philosophy of their profession. Central to the debate has been the lack of clarification of the role of financial counsellors and the relative priorities of casework, community education and policy action. Casework and advocacy on behalf of clients have typically been regarded by funding bodies as the most important responsibilities, since casework statistics provide quantitative accountability for public funds. (Wyse et al., 1990, p.2). A study conducted by Ryan (1990) suggested that different ideological beliefs among financial counsellors would have a significant effect on their casework practice. Different ideologies may result in counsellors assessing cases differently and recommending different courses of action to clients. Other implications of counsellors having different ideologies are that they may have different perceptions of client problems and the role they adopt in assisting clients. (Ryan, 1990, p.31). It was thought that financial counsellors would have different views of the purpose of their work and the outcomes they hope to achieve as a consequence of being recruited from a wide range of different educational and experiential backgrounds. Other factors such as the diverse range of prior experiences, lack of uniform training, different work locations and available resources were suggested as being likely to influence the perceptions that financial counsellors have of their work. Individual counsellors may be working from very different paradigms making it difficult to identify a clear philosophy for financial counselling as a profession. The study was designed to investigate the perceptions of financial counselling in Western Australia by conducting in-depth interviews with financial counsellors and their clients. The interviews were analysed and interpreted to draw conclusions about the relationships between the perceptions of financial counsellors and their clients regarding the intended and actual functions of financial counsellors in meeting client needs. The responses from both financial counsellors and clients indicate that perceptions of the role of the financial counsellor, outcomes and strategies used to achieve outcomes are consistent. The results of this study indicate that financial counsellors are in fact working toward similar goals and have similar views of their work. The findings do not support the literature and anecdotal evidence which suggests that financial counsellors may not share the same philosophy of their profession. It is anticipated that the results of this study will assist in the development off future policies, practices and training programs for financial counsellors in Western Australia.

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