The Mustard Seed Appeal
The Mustard Seed Appeal will help establish a network of churches, individuals and local organisations that will engage with and tackle issues of money, debt and credit in communities.
Archbishop Justin Welby has spoken passionately about the devastating impact of debt and money problems on people’s lives and the need to build a new financial system that works for everyone.
He has inspired churches, individuals, and wider society to start making a difference on these issues.
With his support, and building on three successful pilots (CCCN), CUF are developing the Just Finance Network.
The Just Finance Network
This new network for Just Finance will build on the success of the Church Credit Champions Pilot (CCCN) and be delivered through the CUF Together Network which has a track record of developing capacity for action at a local level.
The long term aim of the Just Finance Network is to build financially healthy communities and individuals by:
· Helping grow a more visible and effective community finance and money advice sector – promoting credit unions and signposting to debt advice
· Increasing people’s financial capability - giving them the skills and knowledge to make good decisions around money
The Just Finance Network Development Workers will by work with local churches and in partnership with local organisations to achieve these aims by:
· Helping churches and communities start a conversation about people’s experiences of money
· Increasing the capacity of credit unions to offer more savings schemes and affordable loans
· Training local volunteers to give practical help to people struggling with debt
· Promoting budgeting skills courses
· Supporting community-led initiatives that promote new ideas for community finance
· Joining in with the bigger conversation about building a fairer financial system
Our pilot projects (CCCN) have formed the beginnings of this network and are already making a difference: So far, nearly 200 churches have been mobilised, with over 250 trained volunteers helping recruit over 2,300 new credit union members (3,000 by the end of the pilot). The first two pilot projects alone are expected to generate £2.2 million in social value.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Mustard Seed Appeal will allow more trained volunteers to help churches respond and take action in the most appropriate way for their communities. A proposed 18-month rollout to 30 dioceses will train 6,000 volunteers and benefit 2.5million people.
Imagine the difference we could make if the network were extended across England!
Money problems are having an impact on our mental and physical health, our relationships, and our careers. 60% of UK adults believe that managing money is more difficult now than it was 10 years ago. Nearly 9 million struggle with problem debt and yet only 17% of are seeking advice. 4 in 10 adults have less than £500 in savings making it more likely that they would have to resort to a loan to cover unforeseen costs.
· How does this relate to the work of CAP?
At a local level we work closely with CAP but the Just Finance Network has a wider focus.
Locally, where the issue is about debt, we will signposting people to the CAP network or other providers of debt advice services like Community Money Advice. However we also want to help to develop other services through support for Credit Unions and other Community Development Finance Initiatives, and to promote saving and budgeting.
· What are credit unions
Credit unions are a type of local, community bank. Like banks, they offer a range of financial services, primarily focusing on savings and affordable loans. By doing this they help to improve financial inclusion and financial health of individuals and communities. Unlike banks, though, credit unions operate are owned and run by their members. The emphasis is on providing the best service to members – putting people ahead of profits.
Community led finance initiatives like credit unions are well placed to serve the financial need of communities. They are able to maximise money skills within a community and have a proven track record of improving local economies.
The Just Finance Network will offer support to credit unions and other community-led finance initiatives. We are not encouraging churches to set up new credit unions but rather to support those that already exist so that they are more visible and have increased capacity to serve their communities.
The credit union sector in the UK is growing and rapidly professionalising to meet the challenges of a digital age by offering online access etc. Credit unions vary in size from small ones with less than 100 members to very large ones that offer similar services to a high street bank. Some are more able and willing to work with churches than others but our development workers will help facilitate these relationships.
· The money and debt advice sector
There is a well-established free debt advice sector in the UK with well known services including Citizens Advice, Stepchange, and National Debtline. There is a push to get people to access advice via phone or online rather than face to face. Church based debt advice includes Christians Against Poverty and Community Money Advice with CMA training church based debt advisors whilst CAP rely on a network of befrienders but handle the debt advice process centrally through their Bradford Office.
Churches may set up their own debt advice centre with Cap or CMA but many more will be able to signpost to existing debt advice services in the community.
· The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Saving. A two year task group chaired by Sir Hector Sants that considered how the church nationally and locally could make a practical contribution to improving access to savings, affordable loans and financial education. CUF and the Church of England are setting up the Just Finance Foundation to oversee the ongoing work of the Church in this area.
The two main ongoing initiatives from the Task Group, now overseen by the JFF, are:
The Church Credit Champions Network – now being rolled out by CUF as the Just Finance Network.
Lifesavers – school savings clubs and financial education