Grant awarded to support vulnerable borrowers in Shropshire


Just Credit Union announced today that a bid for a grant to support outreach activities across Shropshire has been successful.

The grant awarded by the Santander Foundation will fully fund the purchase of three sets of outreach IT equipment required to support a project to reach vulnerable borrowers in remote areas of deprivation across the county.

Just Credit Union delivers its ethical financial services across a predominantly rural area, with the county being one of the most rural and sparsely populated in England.

The Santander Foundation's Discovery Grants scheme provides grants for activities that support disadvantaged people to improve knowledge, skills and innovation to give them the confidence to discover, create and take advantage of new opportunities.

Just Credit Union's Chief Officer, Karen Farrow said,  "A rural and sparsely populated county presents a number of unique challenges with hidden pockets of serious poverty where individuals lack the resources and knowledge to find support.

"Reaching these people has always been a challenge - exacerbated by budget cuts that have seen many local services decline.  Our business model is built on partnership working.  However, many partnerships have been affected by financial pressures and ability to utilise partners' infrastructure, such as broadband, and PC has considerably reduced.  We are also to some extent affected by the need to hold and transmit data securely.

"Residents in rural areas of Shropshire are facing increasing difficulty accessing advice and support.  There is a lack of mainstream banking provision and there have also been cuts to the provision of financial advice and support services.

"Across significant areas of the county there is poor connectivity, especially mobile signal and broadband, poor transport infrastructure, particularly roads and public transport.  This means that it is essential to have access to a car for shopping, banking, employment and training and for residents on a low income that is difficult to maintain.

"It is therefore necessary for Just Credit Union Outreach Officers to visit these areas which can only be done effectively with suitable IT equipment that enables them to communicate securely and effectively with the administration centre in Shrewsbury.

"The equipment will enable Outreach Officers in the field to complete income and expenditure calculations, make and approve loan applications, complete loan documents, satisfy ID and proof of address requirements and open accounts."

She added:  "Currently these processes can take several visits or require a number of documents to go via the post. The current delay leaves vulnerable borrowers potentially open to less ethical lenders and loan sharks."