GWCU helping vulnerable members through cost-of-living crisis
Today (6th December 2022), Great Western Credit Union (GWCU) has released its 2021 Social Impact Report, detailing the social value that the Credit Union has delivered to members and the wider economy across the South West. The report's release comes at a time of escalating hardship and financial woes for many across the region, with findings that 19% of borrowers live in high-deprivation areas. The Credit Union helps members avoid high-cost lending, the cycle of debt and the negative impacts of not accessing credit when needed, with one in four members having used high-cost credit previously. GWCU’s loans have saved its borrowers £431,000 across the year and £700,000 was returned to the local economy, through interest from services.
Assisting those in vulnerable situations is a core value for GWCU, and the report looked at the different ways the Credit Union was able to help those who struggled to find support elsewhere. Though 26% of borrowers work full-time and 18% work part-time or are self-employed, 2021 saw that 25% of members were unable to work due to long-term sickness or disability. In addition, 74% of loan members are women, 63% have children under 18 living with them, 45% of borrowers are single parents, 40% of successful loan applicants have a household income under £16,000 and 22% identify as being from Black, Asian, or Ethnic Minority backgrounds. Working with Bristol City Council, GWCU has also supported 345 people who were at risk of homelessness by offering them interest-free loans to cover a deposit and the first month’s rent for a home in the private rental sector.
James Berry, CEO of Great Western Credit Union said:
We understand that the past few years have been difficult for many people across our country in light of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis. The report shows there is an increased appetite for low-cost, ethical and fair finance that helps to rebuild our local and national economies as 62% of members chose to borrow from us because of affordable repayments, while 44% valued that their money was helping others. Whether you need somewhere to save, borrow or you need advice on effective financial management, Great Western Credit Union is here for you and your communities.
The Credit Union held £13 million in assets and over £8 million out on loan for over 18,000 people– an increase of c2,000 members (12.5%) on the previous year. Over 5,200 loans were made – the majority under £1,250 – across GWCU’s 7,600 borrowing members. This is a 16% increase in lending, with loans disproportionately benefiting those at high risk of financial exclusion including those from low-income households and with a history of high-cost credit use.
Through its merger with Wyvern Savings and Loans in Dorset, GWCU now supports over 5,000 savers with a collective balance of £11 million. It was also found that just over one-third of savers in this area don’t have saving accounts elsewhere and so rely on GWCU for these services. In addition, GWCU’s employer partnership scheme, Money@Work has continued to go from strength to strength. The scheme now has over 32 employers and a combined workforce of more than 36,000 people, providing low-cost and convenient finance through payroll. Since last year’s report, the Credit Union launched their Flex@Work accounts, providing fairer rates and can be easier to manage than a credit card or overdraft.
GWCU’s digital platform has helped make it easier for members to access services regardless of their location, processing a record number of new loan applications at the end of 2021. GWCU continues to invest in even more options for low-cost loans, saving products, and advanced digital services that will benefit its members.