Credit unions operate all over the world, however in the UK, there seems to be a perception that they are a ‘poor man’s bank.’ This is more than likely due to the amount of work credit unions do in the local community, helping the financially excluded, but credit unions are for everyone and can complement the other financial services people use.
East Sussex Credit Union (ESCU) has been operating in the area for nearly 20 years, where they have been helping people to access savings and loans services. The current membership is over 7,000, which includes people that live, work or volunteer in East Sussex, Brighton and Hove and members of Unite the Union in the South East. They often choose to bank with a credit union because of it is an ethical and local way of banking. ESCU’s common bond means that money must stay in the local area and it is then used to help support those facing financial difficulty.
The rollout of Universal Credit in the county means that, for some people, ESCU is the only option to receiving their benefits as residents can be refused a high street bank account due to lack of ID provision, poor credit history or no fixed abode.
ESCU piloted a scheme at the Salvation Army in Eastbourne, which has been rolled-out across the county and so local residents, who were otherwise turned away, were now able to receive Universal Credit.
In order for as many people to access their services as possible, ESCU run several Help Points in areas such as Eastbourne, Hailsham, Lewes and Hove, where they provide a friendly face to talk to and help members to access savings and to discuss any money worries they may have.
ESCU is all about turning borrowers into savers and about promoting the importance of affordable loans so that people can stop paying high interest on borrowing and start saving. All of the ESCU loans have a saving element attached to them, so when a loan has been paid off, the borrower can access their savings account and start contributing to it on a regular basis. ESCU are often talking about the dangers of getting into unaffordable debt especially when using credit cards, pay-day loan companies and even loan sharks that operate in the area. Many people don’t realise that it could be cheaper to have a loan with ESCU compared to paying the interest of a high street bank overdraft, for example.
There’s even better news for people living in the Devonshire West area of Eastbourne (map is available from https://devonshirewestbiglocal.org.uk/about).Due to funding from Devonshire West Big Local, people living with the boundary area will get their credit union membership fee of £5 paid for them and £1 deposited into their account. This is to encourage more local residents to join the co-operative.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in existing debt, or have money tied up in investments or savings, ESCU are here to invest in the local area and they would like you to join the 7,000 members who have chosen a more ethical and community way to banking.