A woman who has a debt incurred by her abusive husband after she fled the family home with her children is assisted to have this debt waived.
Vicki and her two children fled family violence to a refuge. Upon moving into transitional housing, Vicki arranged for her utilities to be connected with her previous utility company. Vicki then received bills totaling $3,800. These bills were incurred by her abusive ex-partner after she had fled the home. Vicki could not afford these bills. With the help of her social worker Vicki attempted to explain the situation to her utility provider. Vicki was not successful in having the utility company agree to waive her liability for the bills. The utility company was within its legal rights to insist on payment of the bills in Vicki’s name despite the fact she had fled terrifying violence and had not incurred the debts herself.
Vicki sought advice and received advocacy from a financial counsellor at WLSV. The financial counsellor attempted to deal with the problem through the hardship department but was told they could not deal with it because the relevant account was closed. The financial counsellor was referred to the collections department. This department advised that unless Vicki agreed to an unaffordable payment plan, they would refer the matter to a debt collection company and this would impact her credit record. The department declined to provide alternative treatment of the debt on the grounds of Vicki’s experience of family violence. Eventually, the financial counsellor was able to lodge a complaint with the utility provider about this treatment of financial hardship caused by family violence. The financial counsellor had the matter referred to a staff member higher up in the department and it was agreed, in principle, that the debt would be waived. This course of action would not have been available to Vicki had she not received specialised financial counselling through WLSV’s Stepping Stones project.