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"Enduring resolution" announced for Youpla funeral group collapse

Giovanni Torre -

The federal government has announced "an enduring resolution" for people impacted by the collapse of the insurance provider Youpla Group.

The Youpla Support Program, announced on Thursday night, will begin on 1 July 2024, and is expected to help more than 13,000 people recover from financial loss and provide certainty to families.

The new program will be for people who held an active policy on or after 1 August 2015, a date which reflects when the Commonwealth removed Youpla policies from Centrepay, acknowledging the risks posed to vulnerable customers.

Under the program, eligible recipients will be offered the choice of a resolution payment – assessed at 60 per cent of the premiums paid up to the value of the insurance. Eligible recipients will receive a low risk prudentially-regulated funeral bond or opt out for a cash payment.

To assist eligible recipients, financial counselling will be offered to help them better understand the options available under the Youpla Support Program.

The $97 million program will run for two years, receiving applications until 30 June 2026.

The initiative follows the interim Youpla Group Funeral Benefits Program, announced by the government in July 2022, which allows the families of former members to claim a grant to cover immediate funeral expenses.

Late on Thursday, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said "losing loved ones can be one of the most traumatic events, made harder still for those First Nations people affected by the collapse of the Youpla funeral fund".

"As soon as we came into government, we responded quickly with an interim support program. Since then, we've ensured the needs of First Nations people, communities and key stakeholders have been front and centre in designing the Youpla Support Program," she said.

"This measure will hopefully bring peace of mind to thousands of families impacted by the collapse of the Youpla Group."

Bettina Cooper of the Save Sorry Business Coalition told National Indigenous Times she was relieved the program had been announced.

"It is a fair outcome. Am I doing cartwheels - no, but am I satisfied? Yes," she said.

"In March 2022 when the fund collapsed the previous federal government was silent on the issue. When this federal government came in they recognised that we had First Nations bodies in morgues, families who expected to be able to pay for funerals and Sorry Business were not able to and it was causing cultural harm.

"On 25 July 2022 the new government introduced the Interim Funeral Benefit program and made a promise for an enduring resolution. Today they have announced they will fulfill that promise with the Youpla Support Program."

Ms Cooper said 80,000 people were affected by the Youpla collapse in total, and some 13,000 would benefit from the new Program.

"This solution is reasonably culturally appropriate. We have been to Canberra eight times, we asked for money back, and got it; options and choice, and got it; we asked for culturally appropriate funeral bonds, and financial counselling for those who need it, we got it.

"Minister Burney has gone in to bat for us and the community, and she has helped fight for this and those elements of the program. She has listened and I think the outcome is one that meets people's needs and gives them options and choices that gives them dignity around Sorry Business."

Ms Cooper noted that the Save Sorry Business Coalition is a First Nations-led campaign.

"We have been fighting for our community," she said.

Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones said the government understands "the importance of Sorry Business and the devastating impact of this company's failures on the community".

"We are pleased to be able to support the varying needs of different First Nations peoples and communities through the Youpla Support Program," he said.

In a statement, the federal government noted the interim program has allowed hundreds of families to "conduct Sorry Business with dignity".

With the aim of ensuring a smoother transition and providing more certainty for former Youpla Group policy holders, the interim program will continue to accept applications until 30 June 2024.

People can register to receive updates and more information about the new Youpla Support Program by visiting niaa.gov.au/youpla or contact the National Indigenous Australians Agency on 1800 079 098.

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