Karen Denham is the Queensland Manager for Good Shepherd for the delivery of Microfinance, including their flagship program No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS). Karen has been working in this role for over 11 years and has over 25 years experience working in the Queensland community services sector.
The initial attraction of the role for Karen was the direct response to the empowerment of individuals through a social justice program.
“Every loan that is given is a special story and makes a difference to the individual. The loans can be life changing for the person receiving it,” Karen says.
NILS offers low income earners an alternative to other more expensive and often unsafe credit options, including payday or bank loans. Karen says this lending is also supported with engagement around financial literacy and allows clients to receive assistance with budgeting and broader discussions with their finances.
“For example, if someone’s fridge breaks down and it costs $800 to replace, the amount the client will repay for this loan is only $800. Other credit options can see repayments being as much as four times the amount of the item being purchased. When clients don’t have access to savings, having access to NILS makes a huge difference to the resilience and wellbeing of the individual and their families.
“NILS delivery is underpinned with values to support the individual – respect, trust and dignity.”
NILS are available for up to $1,500 for goods and services, such as fridges, washing machines, back-to-school costs and medical procedures. It is not a payday loan or bank loan – NILS works through a process called ‘circular community credit’, meaning when a borrower makes a repayment to NILS, the funds are then available for someone else in the community. There is also limit on the number of loans a person can apply for, with many people taking out a loan and, once completed, coming again and again. It is a great way to assist clients to access the ongoing support that they need.
“Last year, the Queensland NILS network of agencies across the state delivered over 6,000 loans,” Karen says.
From the 1 July 2020, Good Shepherd will be introducing a special NILS product to support individuals impacted by domestic and family violence.
“The loan will be up to $2,000 for people experiencing domestic and family violence, and the entry into the program will be more relaxed giving assistance as quickly as possible to those in need,” Karen says.
NILS is not the only program Good Shepherd offers. Clients can also access other products, including the Good2GoNow program and Good Insurance.
Good2GoNow gives clients access to the best prices on energy efficient whitegoods, computers and other household appliances. A big bonus for people in regional areas is free delivery on fridges and washing machines anywhere in Australia that is accessible by a sealed road.
Good Insurance has been created for people on low incomes, who can choose to pay premiums annually, or in monthly or fortnightly instalments, and use Centrepay to manage payments.
StepUP loans are low interest loans of up to $3,000 for people on low incomes. The loan does not attract any fees and has a low interest rate of 5.99 per cent per annum. However, people suffering from a bad credit rating are less likely to get a StepUP loan as it is credit product.