Janet's services earn top award

By Lawrence Gullery

Traditional values have served as the backbone for Janet Harris' 20 years of work as a volunteer to the Hastings Budget Advisory Service.

"My family was very old-fashioned and we used to say 'don't buy things if you can't afford to pay for it'. If you haven't got the money, then you can't afford it," Mrs Harris said.

"It's a common sense approach really," she said.

Last night Mrs Harris was among seven people and one group who were recognised for their years of volunteer work at the Hastings Civic Awards hosted by Hastings District Council.

Mrs Harris' award, for health and welfare, recognised her two decades of work with budget advisory service.

Before the awards ceremony, she told Hawke's Bay Today she began working at the budget advisory service in 1992 and has helped many people manage their financial affairs, helping them to stretch their money further.

"I just wanted to join because I thought I could be of some help, and I was aware people were having difficulties with their money," she said.

"Financial literacy is a problem and easy credit is another. That's tightened up over the years but not much."

Sadly, Mrs Harris said budget advisory service had become "a growth industry" with "third-party lenders" and aggressive television advertising encouraging people to take out loans they couldn't afford.

"It is sad because people don't realise what they're getting themselves into and budget service is the last line," she said.

"I've enjoyed teaching people about how money works and see clients succeed, that's very rewarding."

Mrs Harris said a budget advisory volunteer had to "take a professional approach" to clients, among other requirements to do the job. She used tact and empathy to help relieve the stress families come under when they were struggling with debt.

"You have to be realistic for a start. You have to have some patience, common sense and integrity, those sorts of things."

Mrs Harris also ran education courses for budget advisory clients and for eight years had been a co-tutor for new volunteers.

She served on the Hastings Budget Advisory Service's committee for 19 years and was secretary/treasurer for 10 years.

She said she had reluctantly accepted the Civic Award and would dedicate it to the budget advice service and her colleagues who worked at the Hastings office on Queen St.

"Thanks to all my colleagues, past and present, so very much. I was very surprised by the award and am a bit of a shrinking violet when it comes to this sort of thing.

"In fact I hope the bar is open tonight, I might need a drink."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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