What is East Sussex Credit Union?
East Sussex Credit Union is a not-for-profit community bank. We promote (FSCS protected) savings and sensible borrowing among our membership, with cost effective and flexible loans that meet the needs of our members and return our profits to our members or re-invest in accordance with co-operative principles.
We help develop communities in our work by combating poverty and its detrimental effects upon health and educational attainment providing budgeting advice and signposting to those who may benefit from other services. We actively work to combat loan sharks and high-interest lenders that many in our community are forced to turn to.
We have over 8,500 members, they have savings with us of £3.7 million and loans of more than £2.4 million, some of which are to people who are most in need and unable to access affordable credit elsewhere. We have engaged across a number of sectors (housing, business, government, academia and advice) with a view to building joined up approaches to tackling financial exclusion.
Our Staff and Volunteers
Volunteers are a vital part of our team along with our ten staff. All our Board members are volunteers and we rely on volunteers in our daily work. We work with local job centres, agencies including those that work with migrants or people with disabilities, to offer real work experience and skills that will help our volunteers into employment. Half our existing staff team started working for us as volunteers.
Who are our members & how do we help them?
79% of our members have a household income of less than £15k, half are ‘in-work poor’, and only 3% of our members are homeowners
Sited and working in partnership in a shared advice hub, in the last year ESCU has delivered:
• Universal Credit banking services to 200 'unbanked' – mainly street homeless – people
• 23 zero interest loans for rent deposits for the homeless and residency applications for asylum seekers, working with charity partners
• Savings promotions in partnership with the Illegal Money Lending Team
• developed partnerships with the LGBT and disabled communities attending four Pride events in 2019
• Over 800 households helped into private rented housing via partnership working with a Council Deposit Scheme
In the last year we have issued
• 424 small loans
• 400 loans to lone parents
• 250 loans to people who live in areas of multiple deprivation
• 21 zero interest COVID relief loans
Recognition for our work
• featured on the BBC TV series A Matter of Life and Debt highlighting our work in the community
• Won awards for ‘Excellence in Community Mobilisation and Outreach’ from ICULDE Foundation for our work with street homeless
• Were Highly Commended in the Stop Loan Sharks Champions Awards from the Illegal Money Lending Team for our campaign with the LGBT community.
Why do we need your help?
The COVID 19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our credit union:
- Our office is closed and staff are working remotely. We have incurred approx. £6000 in expenditure to facilitate this.
• To date 14% of our borrowers have asked for forbearance (payment holidays /reduced payments /to freeze interest) normally only 1.3% of borrowers request this.
• The loss of interest income and the increase in provisions we have to make for delinquency will have a significant impact on our income for the current financial year. Our forecast shows loss of interest income of £146,000 and increase in provisions we have to make for delinquency of £24,000 against previous targets.
• In terms of trading activities, loan applications to date are 36% down. Our loan approval rate is at 16% of loans against an average of 32.2%, due to applicants’ higher risk circumstances and job uncertainty . Loss of new business income will affect ESCU into future years.
• We have furloughed 3 staff members and all volunteers are not currently working as we cannot allow volunteers to access member data remotely so our staff are having to absorb the tasks usually handled by volunteers.
What will the funding be used for?
Any funding we receive will help us mitigate against the loss of loan interest income (76% of our income) from non-payers and the loss of income from reduced lending.
This support will help us manage the risk of delinquency and potential write offs, and by managing these risks, we will be better able to serve our community by helping those who already have loans to manage their repayments, temporary breaks and return to normal payment as their situation allows.
It will also allow us to be less risk averse when making lending decisions as our situation will become more secure and so we can issue more affordable loans in our local community rather than people turning to loan sharks or payday lenders.
Crucially it will support us back to our plan to become self- sustaining where we will only be using grants to enhance our social mission helping the most financially vulnerable in our society.