UNISON creates credit union network to tackle growing debt crisis

UNISON, the UK’s largest trade union, is creating a nationwide network of credit unions to help impoverished members deal with personal debt and financial difficulties. To date forty* credit unions are signed up, with double that number in the pipeline.  The initiative for a cross-country lifeline for members drowning in debt, has received widespread support including backing from the Archbishops of Canterbury and Birmingham.

The scheme is being set up in response to a massive explosion in the number of members seeking help from the union’s charity – ‘There for You’.  More and more people are victims of payday loan companies charging exorbitant interest rates, growing fuel debt and unforeseen household emergencies tipping family finances over the edge.  

The credit union network will contribute an holistic approach to dealing with the complexities of debt problems rather than a stop-gap service. The service is aimed at enabling members to regain control of their finances, prepare for the future and be in a better position to cope with any unexpected financial crises.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

“The credit union network is a practical solution to help members drowning in debt.  UNISON’s charity ‘There for You’ has been inundated with requests for help from desperate people who, for a whole multitude of reasons, have got into dire financial difficulties.  Many have been turned down by banks and building societies unwilling to lend to low paid workers, at the same time as bankrolling unscrupulous payday loan companies.

“The pay freeze and squeeze has taken a harsh toll on members, particularly the low paid. Many have had cuts to their take-home pay, allowances slashed or hours reduced, leading to growing financial hardship and insecurity.  

“As part of the union’s fair deal for tackling debt we want the Government to take on the payday loan industry, restrict their advertising and cap the interest they charge. The obscene interest rates and the profits they rake in at the expense of desperate people is a scandal that should not be tolerated.”

* Please contact c.jeffries@unison.co.uk for list