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Debt Counsellor
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. 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.

Their tasks might include:

talking to clients about their debt situation
looking at clients’ income and expenditure
offering emotional support to clients
working out a realistic budget
helping clients to determine priority payments
preparing monthly payment plans for clients to follow
advising about bankruptcy and court proceedings
checking that creditors are demanding the right amount
negotiating with creditors to arrange affordable, realistic repayments for the client
advising about any welfare benefits clients may be eligible for
representing clients in court.

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.

It would be useful to have worked in a finance-related job such as a bank cashier, or in debt recovery, or even in a non-professional role such as managing a budget for a community group or society. Experience using computers working in an administrative capacity, would also be useful as debt counsellors divide their time between desk-based duties and liaising with clients.

As debt counsellors progress they may be required to take on managerial responsibilities, such as leading a team of several debt counsellors or training new debt counsellors.

Satisfying Aspects
- knowing that you are helping people
- the job is in high demand

Demanding aspects
- sometimes working evenings or weekends to fit in with clients' requirements
- working with uncooperative clients

- sympathetic, friendly and patient
- have excellent administrative skills
- have a non-judgemental and unbiased attitude
- able to communicate well, verbally and in writing
- ability to relate to people from all backgrounds
- have a genuine desire to help people
- have good negotiation skills, particularly when dealing with creditors
- able to stay calm under pressure

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting requirements for the course.

Each institution has its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics
Recommended Subjects: Accounting

Debt Counselling is a new profession. The National Credit Act makes provision for the Debt Counselling Programme to assist over-indebted consumers. The programme needs to be implemented by debt counsellors who are competent and registered by the National Credit Regulator (NCR).

There are eight NCR approved training service providers that offer Debt Counsellor training in South Africa. To register as a debt counsellor you are required to attend this 3-day training course and pass a written examination on day 4. In addition to this, any individual who wishes to register as a debt counsellor must comply with all the requirements set out in the National Credit Act and Regulations.

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.

- debt counselling companies
- charities that provide debt counselling
- citizen advice bureaux
- trade unions
- self-employment, with relevant experience

Debt Counsellors’ Association of South Africa
P O Box 60
Germiston, 1400
Tel: 0861 432272

Gauteng Debt Counselling

National Credit Regulator
127 15th Road
Tel: (011) 554-2600