Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Posts Tagged ‘Welfare Reform

Tackling Poverty: “We ALL need to use and invest in credit unions”

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Last week, Katija Dew, our Financial Inclusion Programme Director and Financial Inclusion Champion for Wales, attended and spoke at a high-level event that looked into the issue of Poverty and Welfare Reform in Wales. Here’s her account of the Policy Forum for Wales conference that took place in Cardiff:

Picture of Katija Dew

Katija Dew

“The discussions were interesting and ‘lively’ I would say.

We heard from a range of speakers from the education, voluntary and support sectors, along with the Taxpayers Alliance and Stephen Crabb, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Wales, about Welfare Reform and Poverty. This subject is so big, so complex and so…emotive, hence the lively debate.

On a policy level, Wales is forward thinking. Dr Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reflected that Wales has the most focussed plans for Tackling Poverty of the UK nations. Health, education, employment, housing; it seems it’s all there. So what was Dr McCormick’s parting message? It was that whilst devolved nations have little control over the welfare system, the primary source of tackling poverty is within their gift. That is the building of a strong economy that provides jobs and the building of a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that can take those jobs.

On a practical level, I spent my precious five speaking minutes on more immediate concerns; the use of payday lending services and use of credit unions as an alternative. Yes, credit unions are a responsible alternative lending vehicle, but we need to be fair. There is a reason that other financial institutions don’t provide these services. Sending vulnerable, and frankly expensive to serve, customers to them produces an imbalance in their membership. As a social enterprise they are keen to support financially excluded members but can only do so if all of us invest in and use them. That’s you and I.

A question was asked about illegal money lending and what needs to be done to prevent its exponential spread in the new benefits environment. Of course, we need a strong and well supported Illegal Money Lending team to help tackle the problem but for me, the answer starts with financial inclusion. People have to have an accessible account in which they can receive their income. That account must have the transactional facilities needed to keep their money safe. Beyond that, they need to have the knowledge and capability to use that account to make the most of their money. If, for any reason, that is not possible the Government’s ‘alternative payment arrangement’ safety net should cut in for all that need it.

Financial inclusion is the not the answer to tackling poverty, but it gives people control over the money they have.”

You can find more information about our financial inclusion work on the Wales Co-operative Centre website.

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Written by Mark Smith

February 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

Swansea partnership supports Credit Union Rent Account scheme

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It’s Co-operatives Fortnight and Co-operative Congress is only 48 hours away! It’s timely, therefore, to remember the role that credit unions play as community finance co-operatives. Our ‘Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion’ project has been supporting a scheme that involves Swansea Council and the local credit union, offering customers a rent account, that will help people to manage their money in the face of challenges from Welfare Reform. Swansea Council has provided the following update…

The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in October 2013 will mean that thousands of council tenants, who currently have their Housing Benefit paid directly into their Council Rent account, will have to manage paying their rent instead. Credit Unions have widely been promoted by the Government as a good way of supporting tenants through Welfare Reforms to manage their finances and ensure that their rent is paid. wallet DSC2089

Swansea Council has therefore joined up with Loans and Savings Abertawe (LASA) Credit Union to offer a scheme to support its tenants to pay their rent. The scheme also focuses on identifying and supporting tenants who may be facing financial difficulties as a result of Welfare Reform.

The scheme was initially developed to support tenants with the transition to direct rent payments under Universal Credit, however it was agreed that the scheme could also be used to support tenants affected by the introduction of the under-occupation rules which came into effect in April this year.

Since April, officers within the Rents Team have been working with new tenants at sign up to determine if this scheme is suitable for them. A special application pack has also been developed to explain the scheme and ensure that they understand how it will operate. This has included discussions with tenants who are affected by the under-occupations charge and who may be facing financial difficulties. The scheme has also been marketed in Open House, the newsletter for council tenants.

Whilst there has been some interest in the scheme to date, it is still early in terms of tenants adjusting to making the under-occupation shortfall payments. It is anticipated that as tenants assess their ability to manage the shortfall over the coming months, they may consider the CU rent account as an option. It is further anticipated that by growing the scheme slowly and working with the Credit Union to develop capacity, it will be ready to support those tenants, who in far greater numbers, will be affected by the roll out of Universal Credit.

Tomorrow (June 27th), Jocelle Lovell and Paul White of the Wales Co-operative Centre’s ‘Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion’ (THFI) team will be running a fringe seminar at the Shelter Cymru conference ‘People & Homes 2013’ that is being held at the Swansea Marriott. For more details on their work, including the ‘THFI toolkit’ visit the Wales Co-operative Centre website.

Written by Mark Smith

June 26, 2013 at 9:33 am

Centre staff have the key to housing challenges at TAI 2013

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This week sees Wales’ ‘premier housing conference and exhibition’ swing into town.

Held across Cardiff City Hall and the nearby Hilton Hotel, TAI 2013 will look at current challenges in the Welsh housing sector as well as future opportunities.

Over three days – Tuesday to Thursday – a number of keynote addresses and workshops will be held, with the Wales Co-operative Centre among the organisations represented. woman in front of house

On Wednesday, our Co-operative Housing Project Manager Dave Palmer will be running a workshop that will look into this emerging theme. Dave will provide an outline of the eight ‘pioneer’ co-operative housing projects across Wales, along with details of research that is being carried out into the topic and information on three ‘focus’ projects in Cardiff, Newport and Llanelli.

On the same day, Jocelle Lovell – Project Manager of our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion project – will be involved in a session that will look at the potential impact of the forthcoming Welfare Reforms and what they mean from a financial inclusion and social housing perspective.

We will also have staff on an exhibition stand at the event (Hall B, stand 42), on all three days, promoting the work of the Centre, including the recently launched Money Made Clear Wales website. If you’re attending the event, find out how the Wales Co-operative Centre is working with the housing sector in Wales and how we can support you and your organisation, to lay the foundations for future success, across the projects that we run.

Written by Mark Smith

March 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

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