75,540 adults in Devon are living in financially vulnerable circumstances,sparking fears of a dramatic rise in those being exploited by loan sharks and high-cost lenders.
The latest figures come from financial inclusion body Fair4All Finance, which has launched the first national campaign to raise awareness of credit unions and community lenders as an alternative to payday and illegal lenders.
For the 75,000 adults identified in Devon, being financially vulnerable means that due to personal circumstances such as poor health, experiencing negative life events, low financial resilience or low capability, they are unlikely to access mainstream finance.
Now Fair4All Finance is urging anyone worried about their finances to contact their local credit union or community lender, such as Lendology first, alongside making sure they are claiming the correct benefits to help with the cost of living crisis.
Torridge District Councillor Philip Hackett – Lead Member for Community Safety said: “With so many people finding it increasingly difficult to put food on the table and keep their home warm and lit, there is a serious concern that scammers and loan sharks will take advantage of their desperation.
“Being able to find the right kind of financial support is critical, but people are finding that there are fewer options than ever, particularly if they’ve been turned down by financial providers previously. Our community lenders like Lendology and credit unions are potential lifelines to many; they do amazing work building households’ financial resilience, helping them to ensure that unexpected bills or extra expenses do not plunge them into crisis. Credit unions have been doing this for decades, but sadly it can be easy to overlook them, because they don’t have the marketing budgets of more expensive lenders.”
Credit unions working in Devon include Westcountry Savings and Loans and community lenders like Lendology who work with council partners to provide access to low cost, responsible finance for home improvements and energy efficiency measures. There are other community lenders who are mostly not for profit, and who reinvest any surpluses into serving vulnerable customers, which can be found on FindingFinance.org.uk, while FindYourCreditUnion.co.uk suggest Credit Unions outside your area which may help you based on where you work. Credit unions also support members to put what money they can aside as savings, even whilst borrowing.
An alternative to high street banks, community lenders and local Credit Unions assist households in a range of financial circumstances to afford essential items or cover unexpected expenses, as well as helping them to build their financial resilience. They are not-for-profit and will only lend if it’s the right thing for an individual’s finances, and also help people to consider other options if a loan isn’t the right choice.
Emma Lower, CEO of Lendology said: “We have over 1,200 customers across the South West and want everyone in the area to feel reassured in knowing that organisations like us are here, ready to support more of you to take control of your finances and navigate these tricky times.
“I also urge anyone who is already in receipt of benefits, or somebody who is unsure whether they can claim anything, to check whether they are missing out by using a benefits calculator. In just a few minutes you could find that you are missing out on hundreds of pounds of income each month – and if this means you don’t need to take out a loan from us but can instead keep saving, we see that as a good result.”
Lauren Peel from Fair4All Finance said: “With as many as 1.1 million Brits already in the hands of illegal lenders, and a fifth of UK adults having had less than £100 in savings even before the current financial crisis, the community finance sector is a potential lifeline for anyone worried about their finances.
“Credit unions and community lenders have decades of experience in supporting households across the UK to save and borrow. They are experts in lending responsibly, whether that’s to people who are well off or to those in vulnerable circumstances. They will be a key sector as we go through a distressing cost-of-living crisis and lenders such as these could be vital resources as local people try to navigate this difficult time.”
An alternative to high street banks, local credit unions assist households in a range of financial circumstances to afford essential items or cover unexpected expenses, as well as helping them to build their financial resilience. They are not-for-profit and will only lend if it’s the right thing for an individual’s finances and help them to consider other options if a loan isn’t the right choice.
The campaign has also been backed by The England Illegal Money Lending Team which operates as Stop Loan Sharks in Devon.
Tony Quigley is Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team which runs the Stop Loan Sharks programme in Devon. He said: “We are proud to support the vital work of Credit Unions and community lenders across the country as they help build financial resilience in communities and increase access to fair and responsible finance, particularly for those excluded from mainstream services.
“Loan sharks are ruthless predators who ruin lives and destroy communities. They are preying on people’s desperation in Devon right now and offer nothing more than a vicious cycle of debt and misery in return.”
If you are looking for a credit union near you, please visit: FindYourCreditUnion.co.uk.
There are other community lenders who are mostly not for profit, and who reinvest any surpluses into serving customers who are in financially vulnerable circumstances, which can be found on FindingFinance.org.uk.