Birmingham Fair Money has now been established for 12 weeks since the run up to Christmas, for the sole aim to disrupt the growth of high cost lending in Birmingham by promoting the services of not for profit lenders. Below is a quick summary tells part of the story of what has been achieved over the last three months:
- 1309 meaningful visits to the temporary cabin – many with existing debt difficulties featuring high cost loans
- 1580 visits to the website www.birminghamfairmoney.org.uk
- 3 credit unions – Citysave, Advance and Circul8 and 3 CDFI’s – Moneyline, Street UK and My Home Finance joined together under a single brand
The main success of this project is the way that Birmingham has responded and united behind the need to support local residents who are currently struggling with unaffordable debt, which is taking millions from our city economy each month, withdrawn through our most vulnerable households.
The core staffing for the shop and project was provided by Citysave, but this has been a truly wide effort.
- Illegal Money Lending team provided the cabin, the signage, the literature and the street passes which allowed us to distribute over 10,000 leaflets during the project, and without their generous support, this project could not have occurred.
- Cavell Nurses Trust provided welfare advice and support every week, not only to the nurses and midwives currently suffering financial hardship, but to many visitors to the cabin; as well as training to our staff and the other volunteers involved in the project.
- Aston University provided a whole team of students and staff for this project, and recruited other students from other universities to volunteer and keep the cabin staffed and literature dispensed throughout the 12 weeks.
- We also welcomed volunteers to the cabin from Shelter, Unison, Age Concern, Severn Trent, Unity Trust, Nat West and Pay Ahead Stay Ahead
Birmingham Fair Money has had unanimous backing of Birmingham City Council, which has been fundamental, and provides a platform for a true legacy to this work. The council Fair Money Manifesto is attached, and sets out a commitment to ensure residents have access to ethical and affordable financial services. Birmingham is the first council to issue such a pledge and lead the fight to better protect residents from predatory and unaffordable lending.
The outcomes from this project have been many and varied and I would ask that you take 10 minutes to read the Birmingham Fair Money Final Report. In one Saturday afternoon at the cabin I met six visitors, all young adults, all working and each of whom felt they were working to pay the interest on their unaffordable debt and facing hardship that was seeing them go without basic necessities. It was a shocking and humbling experience. Rebekah, one of our young graduate volunteers commented on her experience which I think summarises what the project was really able to do:
‘As a volunteer, I was aware that my contribution would be limited and assumed that cabin staff would only raise awareness of alternatives to high cost lenders. Following my first day I realised that I had underestimated both the scope of the project and the role of staff working at the cabin. Early on the first day, one lady enquired about applying for a loan to afford food for Christmas. She had thought that she would have enough money, but her account had been emptied by Wonga and had no extra money until her wages were paid in January. The opportunity to ease such financial hardship was made real with the existence of the cabin and this case, along with others, left me feeling as though everyone was working towards a worthwhile cause.’
The project, combined with recently issued bank data, http://birminghamfairmoney.org.uk/birmingham-stand-up/ shows that Birmingham residents in many areas do not have access to affordable personal finance through a high street bank. The gap currently, has been met by a range of lenders including pawn brokers, log book loan stores, payday lenders, rent to own lenders, doorstep and other high cost lenders.
We found that operating under a common brand significantly raised the profile of the not for profit lenders to better challenge these lenders. We have the capacity and the capability to do much more, and in doing so reduce the poverty premium, strengthen individual financial households as well as our wider community. It is estimated that for every £1 loaned by a credit union it adds £10 to the local economy, because the money stays here, which is why the board and team at Citysave are committed to reach further.
Thank you for your support and interest in Birmingham Fair Money.
Chief Executive Officer
Citysave Credit Union Ltd
Owned and managed by the members for the members
Authorised and regulated by the Financial Service Authority FRN: 213258