Quakers and credit unions

By Chris W on October 27, 2016

North Wales Area Meeting recently recognised a concern about Quaker involvement in credit unions. After a process of discernment they formed the North Wales Area Meeting Credit Union Group to explore and expand Quaker involvement in local credit unions. Here, Tricia Jones of Wrexham Local Meeting tells us more about the process so far and what’s on the horizon for the group.

Friends have recently shown a growing and a wish to address the increasing disparity of opportunity, access and lifestyle between those people in our society who appear to be benefiting well from the current economic and financial environment, and those who are suffering increasing poverty, stress, alienation and financial exclusion from mainstream society. In 2012 Yearly Meeting agreed “…to work together with others of goodwill to achieve a better economic system”. And in 2015 Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) issued a document Principles for a new economy to facilitate discussion and discernment on economic issues.

Credit unions are mutual organisations that offer a range of financial services. Many of the principles that underpin credit unions – such as cooperation, community and equality – echo those espoused by the Principles for a new economy. Furthermore, because credit unions exist to benefit their members, rather than provide returns to shareholders, they can play an important role in challenging inequality and financial exclusion.

Our concern

North Wales Area Meeting (NWAM) took a concern about Quakers and credit unions to Meeting for Sufferings in September 2015. NWAM was encouraged to continue to develop its ideas and to work with other area meetings. NWAM has agreed a plan of action, which has support from QPSW and is summarised below.

Plan for the North Wales Area Meeting Credit Union Group

Stage 1 – fact-finding questionnaires: To survey how involved Quakers are with credit unions, whether individual Friends and attenders or local and area meetings are members, and whether there are areas not covered by credit unions.

Stage 2 – dissemination of information: Send out to all meetings in the UK packs of suitable information materials, including: what a credit union is, how it operates and how to get involved. Then build a network of Friends who are interested, involved or would like to be more involved in the credit union.

Stage 3 – offering support: To help Friends get more involved in their local credit union. If no credit union exists in areas where Friends are keen to get involved, link them to sources of support and/or offer to help them set up a Quaker credit union (i.e. a credit union run on Quaker principles, where Quakers are involved in holding the board of directors to account).

And finally…

We see credit unions as a positive way to combat financial exploitation and exclusion. We aim to encourage and support Friends to engage with their local credit union(s), enabling them to respond to economic injustice in their communities and reflect our testimonies.

About credit unions

Credit unions are mutual (cooperative) organisations that offer savings accounts, affordable loans and, depending on the credit union, other financial services such as current accounts.

There are now about 500 credit unions in the UK, with approximately one million members.

Credit unions do not provide financial gain for any shareholders or other private individuals or companies. Members decide how the credit union is to be run and elect a board and management team to run the credit union in their shared interests. To keep these interests broadly harmonious, credit unions only allow new members to join if they share a ‘common bond’ with the current members, and with the union itself. This common bond is usually a shared geographic location, but can also be membership of a profession, club, or association.

Since they are for mutual benefit, credit unions can offer loans and savings to people who can’t access ordinary banking products or other financial services. Many people in Britain find themselves unable to obtain credit facilities from banks and building societies. Some therefore end up taking on loans at extortionate interest rates from either legal loan companies or unregulated money-lenders. One way of challenging the financial exclusion suffered by many of our communities is by supporting the development and sustainability of credit unions.

How you can get involved

Answer the NWAM Credit Union Group questionnaire when it becomes available. Keep an eye on Earth and Economy e-updates at bit.ly/earthandeconomy or contact Maya Williams on 020 7663 1056 or at mayaw@quaker.org.uk.

Explore becoming part of your local credit union:

  1. Association of British Credit Unions Ltd – www.abcul.org/home
  2. Scottish League of Credit Unions – www.scottishcu.org

If you’d like to be more involved in the work of the NWAM Credit Union Group, email Tricia Jones at tricia.jones59@aol.com.

 

 

 

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