Government to back save-and-loan scheme

Proposals for an innovative, community-based save-and-loan
scheme are being pursued with the government’s independent
financial regulation arm.

The Registry of Friendly Societies – the section of the
Financial Services Authority that deals with the registration of
credit unions – has been asked to consider a proposed union based
on a type of “shoppers club” in Liverpool, where people can buy
essential home items at a low cost.

Plans for the Revive Credit Union are based on Liverpool’s
Furniture Resource Centre (FRC) – a collection of social
enterprises, including the Revive store, a citizen’s advice
bureau and a furniture recycling and manufacturing service for
social landlords.

The Registry is keen to encourage the Revive proposal, but has
so far not been convinced that a sufficiently strong common bond
would exist among the FRC’s stakeholders for it to qualify as
a credit union.

Credit unions are mutually-owned financial co-operatives where
the members are united by a common bond, usually through an
association, occupation or geographical location. They offer
alternative access to financial services for people on low incomes,
allowing them to save money before taking out loans.

The government wants credit unions to play a major role in
combating financial exclusion and the Treasury recently unveiled
plans to boost the 700 unions in Britain. The Neighbourhood Renewal
National Strategy Action Plan, published by the Social Exclusion
Unit earlier this year, made a firm commitment to promoting unions
in deprived areas.

A “networking” form of common bond has been developed from the
experiences of other credit unions, according to the Revive Credit
Union Study Group, which developed the proposals and is supported
by the Association of British Credit Unions. The common bond would
link all the FRC’s stakeholders, including staff, directors
and customers.

“Revive is not simply a ‘loyalty cards’ scheme, but
rather a new and developing way of binding the stakeholders of a
social enterprise together for mutual benefit,” said study group
chairperson Eamonn Dunne.

“In Britain, the notion of the common bond has been understood
quite restrictively,” said Paul Jones, senior lecturer at Liverpool
John Moores University, credit union development researcher and
study group member. “The Revive proposal has pressed some buttons
that needed to be pressed.”






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