A new national research revealing a spike in women resorting to high-interest payday loans has prompted reminders by Wagga's support organisations that there are charity-based financial help available.
The number of women opting for payday loans to cover household bills and everyday expenses has increased by 20 per cent in 2015–17, according to updated analysis by Digital Finance Analytics for charity organisation Good Shepherd Microfinance.
Further, about 40 per cent of women taking out payday loans were single mothers and they were likely to have taken out multiple loans in the previous year.
The research also found women were borrowing larger amounts than ever before: from $427 to $651 in those two years.
At Wagga Women's Health Centre, economic wellbeing worker Emma Creasy said that while payday loans is not as prevalent in the region as it is in capital cities, she encouraged women considering the option to seek advice beforehand.
"What we need to be careful for payday loans is the interest rates," Ms Creasy said.
"It might seem really easy to get that money, but paying it back could be the problem.
"If you miss a pay date, it’s immediate — not only will you get interest rate charges, you’re also getting fees and charges for not meeting their needs as well.
"A simple $100 loan can escalate up to a $500-$600 loan in a short time."
Ms Creasy said that the centre's economic well-being program helps women navigate financial issues after trauma and domestic-violence related situations.
"The statistics show that one in three women are experiencing domestic violence," she said.
"Ninety-eight per cent of those women are experiencing economic abuse.
"When people come to access services here, it’s about developing a knowledge base and education around financial literacy to ensure they make the right and informed decision for them for their situation because everyone’s different."
Besides payday loans and microfinance, alternative payment options include the 'buy now, pay later' scheme of Afterpay, which Ms Creasy said is more accessible in the Riverina.
"It’s something we’ve had a conversation around if someone’s come in for an economic well-being," she said.
"If they do take them up, it’s ensuring they’ve got the means or ability to pay that so you don’t get the fees or charges associated with."
Similarly, St Vincent de Paul's Wagga regional president Joanne Crowley encouraged residents to adhere to the simple rule of "if it's not necessary, don't buy it".
"Whether it's Vinnies, the Salvos, or health centre, go where there are people who are trained to look after before you get loans you can't repay," Ms Crowley said.
"Because we look at Centrelink statements, we can see where people are paying back loans and they’re getting themselves deeper and deeper into debts."
Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO Peter McNamara said hundreds of thousands of women were being lured into a financial trap that many would struggle to escape.
"We’ve found that women tend to use payday loans at a younger age than men, they’re borrowing money for emergency cash to pay household bills and they’re largely being enticed through online marketing," Mr McNamara said.
"It is disgraceful that they are targeting vulnerable women, particularly single mothers, who have limited incomes and will struggle to make repayments.
"We see time and again examples of low-income people becoming trapped in a vicious cycle of debt once they take out these loans because they have such high interest rates and significant penalties for late payment."
Mr McNamara’s comments followed recommendations by a Senate Inquiry into payday lending, which called for new laws to protect vulnerable consumers and funding to regulate the sector.
"We need to ensure that government enacts regulation to protect financially vulnerable Australians," Mr McNamara said.
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