Debt Counsellor/Debt Advisor

 

What do Debt Counsellor or Debt Advisor do?

Debt counsellors are responsible for dealing with complex debt situations, helping people to manage their finances and eventually become debt free. They provide impartial, confidential and practical help and advice to clients whose debts have got out of control, advising on issues such as financial planning, budgeting, money management and bankruptcy. They may be required to take on managerial responsibilities, such as leading a team of several debt counsellors or training new debt counsellors.

Debt counsellors liaise with creditors on behalf of clients, give legal advice and support clients with court proceedings. They also give emotional support to clients who are stressed or anxious about their financial situation.

They may work with clients face-to-face, in an advice centre or office, or visit outreach centres or clients’ homes to give advice. Others may work on a telephone help-line. They occasionally need to attend court.

Tasks include:

  • Obtaining client permission for debt review
  • Assessing the extent of client’s debt burden
  • Providing options for an agreement of settlement with creditors
  • Negotiating suitable terms with creditors
  • Ensuring that clients’ stick to their debt payment terms
  • To assess and review a client’s debt burden
  • To assist in drawing up a settlement plan acceptable to creditors
  • To manage and ensure that payments are made regularly and timeously as per the agreement reached with creditors
  • Sound judgement is a prerequisite

 

Occupation Regulation

The National Credit Regulator (NCR) was established as the regulator under the National Credit Act (34 of 2005).  All debt counsellors have to register with the NCR. Click to see more.

“DCASA” for short, is a professional body representing Debt Counsellors in South Africa. All DCASA members subscribe to a Code of Conduct, ensuring high ethical standards that will maintain the integrity of the Debt Counselling industry. Since 2007, when the National Credit Act was introduced, DCASA has contributed significantly to the industry by engaging with industry stakeholders such as the National Credit Regulator, The Department of Trade and Industry, Credit Providers and Credit Bureaus. Click to see more.

 

Personality Traits

  • A solid financial background is essential
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills is a pre-requisite
  • Someone who does not mind working unusual hours and travelling extensively
  • An excellent and convincing negotiator
  • Good knowledge of all the relevant acts including the National Credit Act and Consumer Protection Act
  • An empathetic nature
  • Clear-cut ethics in terms of confidentiality

 

Learning Pathway

Relevant work experience is of more importance than formal qualifications and most debt counsellors begin in a related voluntary role. It is important to demonstrate good people skills, so experience working with people in any capacity, but particularly with those who are vulnerable, will be of relevance. Each institution has its own entry requirements. You can enter this occupation with at least two years working experience in any one of the following fields.

  • Consumer protection
  • Complaints resolution
  • Consumer advisory services
  • Legal or paralegal services
  • Accounting or financial services
  • Education or training of individuals
  • Counselling of individuals
  • General business environment

You have to complete a debt counselling course approved by the NCR. You are also subject to further requirements, such as providing proof that you are able to adequately manage your own finances. Further learning, beyond this course, is then required, including training in using the computer programme that is essential to the facilitation of the Debt Review process. Keeping up-to-date with the latest economic discussions and trends is vital. Since this is a new initiative in South Africa to educate and assist those who are over-indebted, debt counsellors must also be prepared to engage in regular problem-solving forums and to keep up to date on all changes. Successfully completing the course and registering as a debt counsellor is therefore only the first step in the process of becoming an effective NCR accredited debt-relief service provider.

 

Employment Avenues

  • Banking sector
  • Private Debt Counselling companies
  • Charities that provide debt counselling
  • Citizen advice bureaux
  • Trade unions
  • Self-employment, with relevant experience