Just finance Network
The Just Finance Network helps local churches to engage faithfully and effectively with issues of money, debt and credit in their communities.
We've developed resources to help churches listen both to God and to their neighbours on questions of money and then to respond through debt advice, money management and partnering with credit unions and other community finance organisations.
The Network launched in May 2014 as the Church Credit Champions Network with pilots in London and Liverpool.
So far we have engaged over 400 churches, trained over 350 volunteers to signpost to affordable credit, free debt advice and money skills courses, and helped over 3,500 people secure a better financial future by becoming members of credit unions. Publicity about the programme has also helped to raise awareness more widely of the impact of debt and high cost credit, community finance alternatives such as credit unions, and the need for improved financial capability. Many more churches and individuals have engaged with the issues and taken action using our resources.
SEEING CHANGE course
Seeing Change is an interactive five session Bible Study course on the story of Nehemiah and the theme of 'Rebuilding'. It is designed to be accessible to churches of every tradition who want to explore how to engage with their communities more effectively. If you are interested in running the course in your church or small group just download the Leader's Guide and follow the simple instructions.
A Money Talk is a simple tool to open up a conversation about money and financial institutions - in particular (but not exclusively) borrowing and saving. It's about listening to people's experiences, identifying problems and possible solutions, and building a team of leaders to act for positive change.
If you'd like to talk to us about holding a Money Talk please get in touch.
STORIES FROM THE NETWORK
NORTH MIDDLESEX HOSPITAL
Payroll Savings Scheme
Payroll savings schemes allow staff to save and pay back loans directly through their payroll, building their financial resilience whilst also boosting the resources of the credit union. Payroll Savings has been identified by the Church Credit Champions Network as a key strategic priority, and organisations such as Linklaters, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme have already set up schemes as a result of Network activity.
North Middlesex Hospital is another organisation that has set up a payroll savings scheme for its employees. Around 30 people have already signed up, with new enquiries every week, and £50,000 has been lent out to staff
Dominic Fenton, chaplain at North Middlesex Hospital explains how the partnership between the local credit union and the hospital was established:
'I first read about the North London Credit Union in the London Diocesan monthly mailing and wondered whether it could help staff in my organisation, some of whom I know to be really struggling on low incomes. I made appointments to talk with our Director of Human Resources and our Deputy Director of Finance to see what might be possible. Once I had re-assured them that the Credit Union was bona-fide and not run by loan sharks [!] , they agreed to invite the Credit Union on site.
Representatives from NLCU visited the Trust on several occasions, set–up an information booth in the main Atrium and provided staff to offer advice and support. Thus a partnership was formed between the Trust and NLCU offering ethical loans and savings products, monthly payments for which are deducted from salaries at source.
Currently, significantly more than £50,000 has been lent to staff, creating great savings in the process. NLCU is now permanently marketed by our HR dept as a benefit offered both to existing and new members of staff and we have had very positive feedback from those enrolled in the scheme'.
Peter Lovell, MBE, CEO of North London Credit Union:
“We were delighted to start working with North Middlesex University Hospital, who have been very supportive. We are very grateful to Dominic for his efforts on our behalf.
Credit unions have a long history of helping employers to look after their staff. Such partnerships offer real benefits to everyone involved, meeting many employers’ CSR goals, as well as reducing stress-related absence and leading to higher productivity. Employees get an easy, safe and confidential way to save and access to low-cost loans should they need them. Credit unions gain access to new members, helping us to grow and to further support our local communities.”
Organisations in the Church Credit Champions Network (CCCN) pilot areas of London, Southwark and Liverpool can use the contact form near the top of this page to contact a local coordinator to discuss exploring a partnership with a local credit union.
The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) promote payroll saving and give advice to organisations wanting to set up a scheme for their employees.
ALL HALLOWS BY THE TOWER
The clergy team of the oldest church in the City of London has taken the challenge set by Archbishop Justin Welby to promote the work and benefits of credit unions in the nation’s financial centre.
The Rev’d Sophia Acland, associate priest of All Hallows by the Tower, was appointed with a brief including specifically to develop the relationship with the City’s corporate institutions. Since her appointment in October 2014 she has made a wide range of useful contacts in the City.
All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in the City of London, and sits between the affluence of the City of London and areas of deprivation in Tower Hamlets on its east side. Only a hundred people actually live in the parish, but during the week around 50,000 commute into the area for work and are joined by the thousands of tourists visiting the Tower of London and surrounding sites.
The church has been involved with the Tower Hamlets Foodbank from its beginning, and now Sophia has been discussing with local companies how they could support credit unions in three areas:
· Promoting the products and services offered by credit unions to employees, including those working for outsourced companies and those based regionally across the country who may be lower paid
· Setting up payroll savings schemes with credit unions
· Encouraging employees with specific professional skills and experience to volunteer with the credit union
“There is recognition among people in the City that things have not been easy since the financial crisis of 2008 and there is definitely a will to make a difference and to promote financial inclusion. Although changing minds about investment options is not easy, we have been encouraged by the discussions that Sophia and I have been able to have so far, even though we know that there are plenty of hurdles too." Rev’d Bertrand Olivier, Vicar of All Hallows
The next step is to bring together London Capital Credit Union, one of the three credit unions serving the City, with representatives of locally-based companies at a breakfast meeting on 15th May.
London Capital already has some City links: the City of London Corporation has a payroll savings scheme with them and law firm Linklaters are among their corporate members. The meeting, which aims to create a dialogue and a way forward between City corporates and the credit union, will be opened by Sir Hector Sants, chair of the Archbishop’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings. If you are City based and interested in attending please contact Sophia: firstname.lastname@example.org
CHURCH CREDIT CHAMPIONS COMMISSIONING
The Church took another step forward in its efforts to build a fairer financial system in September with the commissioning of over 50 credit champions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The event was part of the Church Credit Champions Network, (CCCN) a project which is helping congregations across London and Liverpool to take action on money and debt issues in their community. Archbishop Justin announced that the Network is on track to save more than £2 million by helping people access affordable credit from places like credit unions rather than high-cost providers such as payday lenders.
The commissioning took place at a special Evensong at St George-in-the-East Church in Shadwell, east London. During the service several credit champions gave short testimonies of their experiences so far as part of the Network, including a moving account from a single mother who had been in debt to a payday lender herself and who through this project has become a leader in her community helping others to access debt help and join the credit union.
In the Archbishop’s sermon he spoke of his pleasure and surprise that his comments about Wonga and the role of the Church had sparked so much action and creativity amongst local congregations. He told the credit champions that “those of you who are being commissioned have heard God’s call, as the whole church has in a new way in recent years, to be a church of the poor for the poor, to seek justice and the common good for all in our society. You have set up credit union access points in your churches, brought new people onto the boards of local credit unions, supported people struggling with debt through signposting them to debt advice resources. You have seen the need, and you have met it with love, grace and hope.”
Before the service, many of the credit champions being commissioned attended a training and best-practice sharing event held in the offices of the Centre for Theology & Community who are running the Church Credit Champions Network. The training included theological reflection and resources to help churches to listen to their communities, as well as practical sessions on different ways in which churches can take action on money and debt issues.
We’ve seen lots of amazing initiatives happening in local churches over the last year and a half of running the pilot, but until now it felt a bit like these activities were happening in isolation from each other. So to be able to bring everyone together and help them to see that actually they are part of something much bigger than just their own particular context was a great opportunity. And of course it was fantastic to have the personal support and encouragement of Archbishop Justin, who has motivated so many people on these issues. To have him commission the credit champions was a fitting recognition for some very inspirational people.
ST BARNABAS CHURCH, LIVERPOOL
St Barnabas Church in south Liverpool is on the corner of Penny Lane, the street made famous by the catchy Beatles tune. However the title of the song is not the only link that the church has with the fab four - as a boy, Paul McCartney sang in the church choir.
As well as celebrating the success of its famous ex-chorister, St Barnabas has its own story to tell of a century at the heart of its community. It's because of this commitment that every Tuesday, alongside a coffee morning, the church hosts a branch of Lodge Lane & District Credit Union.
The church credit union branch, open every week of the year, is run by volunteers from the credit union and offers a full service: registering new members, receiving deposits and processing loan applications.
With the support of Julia Webster, Church Credit Champions Coordinator in Liverpool, St Barnabas is now hoping to extend its Tuesday morning community services by hosting the Citizens Advice Bureaux alongside the credit union branch and church coffee morning.
Lodge Lane & District Credit Union celebrated it's 25th Anniversary in February 2014 and a few months later welcomed it's 5000th member who joined at the St Barnabas branch. The credit union has two other community access points and a main branch.
REV ROSEMIA BROWN
This BBC report highlights the remarkable work of Rev Rosemia Brown, Vicar of St James' Church in Hackney, who has turned her church building into an outpost for the London Community Credit Union.
Along with volunteers from her congregation, Rosemia helps a huge range of people in her parish to access savings and ethical financial services, in an area that is rife with payday and other exploitative lenders.
On Monday 27th October 2014, over 130 people in Peckham joined their local credit union together. A group of Peckham residents delivered the applications to the credit union to highlight the services offered by the local credit union as an alternative to payday lenders.
The effort was a joint venture by South London Citizens, Copleston, a church and community centre in Peckham, and the Church Credit Champions Network. This BBC London News report shows what happened and why.
November provided the perfect example of the Church Credit Champions Network in action. For several weeks a dozen or so churches in Hackney had been talking to members of their congregation about their local credit union, and on Wednesday 12th November they came together to walk past the numerous betting shops and payday lenders that dominate their High Streets to present 134 credit union application forms! The action was the perfect launch for the 500 for Hackney campaign which is seeking to find 500 new members for London Community Credit Union in the next year.
Sir Hector Sants, Chair of the Archbishop's Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings, was also there to award a special certificate to thank The Revd Rosemia Brown for all her efforts in support of the local credit union.
Fr Rob Wickham, Area Dean of Hackney and one of the leaders in the campaign, said:
“Debt is a huge problem in Hackney, and destroys people’s lives. Every day I walk past payday lenders who are making profits out of the misfortune of many of our poorest members of society. It is for this reason that I, and many churches across Hackney are working closely with the London Community Credit Union to offer opportunities for more affordable credit for all members of our society. Working together is a mark of a healthy community, and this is an easy way of demonstrating this financially.”
Christian Today covered the action, and made a video of participants explaining what they were doing and why.
2014-2015 Annual Report
The Church Credit Champion Network published its first annual report in April 2015. David Barclay looked at the headlines:
In terms of headline figures, the Network is well on track to meet its main targets after a year. Over 200 churches have been engaged, with 119 clergy and lay leaders trained as ‘Credit Champions’ and over 600 people joining their local credit union as a result of the Network’s activity. It’s likely that all of these numbers will continue to rise as the Network progresses, particularly in Merseyside where the local Co-ordinator has only been in place for a few months.
But behind the statistics are a variety of stories of local churches getting involved in tackling money and debt problems in their community in creative and effective ways. In Hackney, for example, 10 churches across different traditions ran a ‘Money Talk’ event for their members in 2014, opening up the conversation about financial issues in their neighbourhood and what they wanted to do about them. From these they identified the need to support the local credit union as an alternative to the payday lenders proliferating on the high street. To do this they decided to work together on a 500 for Hackney campaign to find 500 new members for London Community Credit Union. As a Launchpad for this initiative, in November 2014 the churches organized a mass sign-up with over 130 application forms collected. Representatives from the different churches walked together with the Chair of the Archbishop’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings Sir Hector Sants and national and international journalists to the credit union branch to hand in their applications and celebrate their success. Since then, several churches have had their members trained in order to open their church buildings as ‘access points’ for the credit union in areas with no local branch presence.
Another highlight of the first year of the Network has been the actions of St Mary’s Church in Primrose Hill. St Mary’s started engaging with the Credit Champions Network in Autumn 2014. They ran the Seeing Change course in their mid-week Bible Study group, and then held a Money Talk during a Sunday Service. That discussion was so lively, and the congregation so enthusiastic, that over 40 people (approx. 1/3 of the congregation) stayed behind after the service to discuss what to do next. In the few months since they signed up over 50 of their members to the London Mutual Credit Union, attracting local news coverage in the process. They are now planning to undergo debt signposting training and to work with local schools on financial literacy.
So the Network has got off to a strong start, and we are looking forward to many more stories to come of churches transforming their communities on issues of money and debt. In the meantime, if you are outside of our pilot areas you could still run the Seeing Change course and a Money Talk in your Church or local community. See the resources section of this website for everything you need to get started.