Poverty in employment makes access to financial services more important than ever

If you strip out the top 10% of the population then the average pay for the remaining 90% in the UK is just £12,969.

Since 2008, just one in every forty jobs created is full-time. By 2014, this was the equivalent loss of nearly 700,000 full-time jobs. In 2013, there were more working families living in poverty in the UK than non-working families for the first time since the birth of the welfare state. In fact, in that year (2013) alone there were 500,000 more families added to this over-stretched group. According to an article in The Independent quoting the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, out of 26,400,000 UK households there were “6.7 million families with adults in employment who meet the worrying criteria of living in poverty compared with a combined 6.3 million of retired and unemployed families living in poverty.” (The original source of this article is True Publica Copyright © Graham Vanbergen, True Publica, 2016).

Many people served by credit unions are on lower wages and many are struggling with their household budgets. The role of the credit union is not as a life-boat for financial problems, although many are guided out of the maze of debt because of them. Credit unions are a means of helping all members to manage their finances more effectively with careful saving and borrowing.

“It’s poverty for people in work that we’re dealing with. Our credit union is a lifeline to many families who are actually in work. This is not the typical model of poverty people expect”. Said Chris Smith

2015 saw the slowest pace of UK economic growth for three years, with confidence in main stream financial organisations continuing to be shaky. In this economic climate it has been important to spell out to existing and new members that The Co-operative Credit Union is a simple, strong and effective business.

Even those in employment have been cautious about borrowing, and there was the continued knock on from the redundancies in various parts of the common bond, particularly the Co-operative Group. Alongside trying to grow the business, the credit union has had to mitigate the risk of bad debt through a variety of means; greater use of automated lending decisions, improved employee training and increased tariffs for riskier lending. As well as reviewing procedures for collection of bad debt with the result being healthier levels of repayment than ever before.

Despite these challenges, The Co-operative Credit Union invested a significant amount in both resource and funding, in building and developing the business during 2015 with a view to attracting membership growth and lending. There has been significant expansion of the credit union’s common bond, including new recruit USDAW. (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers), the exhibition stand held at the USDAW conference in Blackpool resulted in the acquisition of 302 accounts.

The Credit Union has also been successful in signing up various partners as well as launching tailored campaigns, among others being actively engaged in a joint venture with the Phone Co-op as well as Co-operative Energy, developing a suite of member benefits which in return saw a rise in bank balances and subsequent commission payments. 

Founded in 1998 as The Co-operative Family Credit Union.

The Co-operative Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial co-operative and offers a competitive range of savings and loans accounts to employees and ex-employees of organisations within the credit union’s ‘common bond’. These organisations are wide and varied and include:

  • co-operative societies such as, The Co-operative Group, Mid-counties Co-operative Society, Central England Co-operative
  • co-operative apex bodies, ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) and Co-operatives UK
  • worker co-ops such as SUMA wholefoods and Unicorn grocery
  • supporter owned football club FC United of Manchester