Two key areas of focus at Fair4All Finance are increasing the availability of affordable credit and developing the market to provide products that meet the needs of all customers. Credit unions play an important role in both of these.
We commissioned research into the social and economic role of credit unions across Merseyside and, more specifically, the impact of being a member of trusted, stable, reliable community finance organisations, especially at a time of considerable uncertainty for many households.
The results were clear. These organisations make a significant difference to the people they serve across Merseyside, particularly those in financially vulnerable circumstances. The research found that these credit unions:
- Increase the availability of affordable credit, improving their members’ quality of life and providing a sense of control
- Encourage development of savings habits, helping members build resilience and a financial safety net, enhancing their overall financial stability
- Help retain money in households, saving members between £5.6m to £23.5m per year in interest that would otherwise be paid to higher cost alternatives
- Improve wellbeing and provide peace of mind, with nearly 80% of members reporting experiencing less anxiety and a greater sense of control over their finances
A blueprint for others
These themes and the others identified in the report are a blueprint for the way financial services need to support people across all incomes and tenures to improve lives and be integral to communities.
Proactively reporting on the difference credit unions make plays an important part in attracting and retaining members, staff and other support to enable them to grow and thrive. It also draws out the different aspects of impact that credit unions can measure and report to provide their members and wider stakeholders with confidence and insight into the difference they make.
In summary, credit unions in Merseyside demonstrate their positive social impact by providing affordable credit, promoting financial resilience and stability, reducing interest costs, and improving the overall health and wellbeing of their members. They do this while maintaining strong mission driven values, personal relationships and financial sustainability, making them a vital resource for the communities they serve.
We hope this research will:
- Increase understanding of the impact of credit unions and the people they serve
- Inform the policy, funding and investment environment for credit unions
- Identify opportunities and challenges facing credit unions that the sector and its supporters can seek to tackle together
This research was a collaborative project and we’re grateful to the inspiring credit union leaders who stepped forward and collaborated with enthusiasm and patience, and to all of their members who shared their experiences with the researchers.