Working together to help people struggling with debt

Thu 23 May 2019

Work to end the targeting of high cost credit at those who can least afford it, is picking up pace in Neath Port Talbot thanks to the work of the Wales Affordable Credit Action Group.

The group was set up to build on the work of the End High Cost Credit Alliance which was created by local actor and activist Michael Sheen.

Social housing provider Tai Tarian is one of the founding members of the Alliance and is now a key partner in the Wales Affordable Credit Action Group.

At the third meeting of the group, held at Tai Tarian headquarters in Baglan, a number of initiatives were discussed that will help people in the community who are struggling with debt.

This included the work being done to improve access to ethical credit and mitigate the effects of high cost credit and poverty on people in Wales.

Members of the group, which includes Michael Sheen, also heard from representatives of Fair4All Finance and Carnegie UK who are working across the UK to find ways to help people who are financially excluded including sourcing responsible lenders.

Tai Tarian Chief Executive Linda Whittaker who chaired the meeting, said, “I’m so grateful for the commitment and generosity of everyone who is working with the Wales Affordable Credit Action Group.

“It’s inspiring to see so many different organisations coming together to find ways of offering help, support and fairer credit alternatives to people who are really struggling with money worries.

“It was particularly useful to have representatives from Carnegie UK and Fair4All Finance at the meeting, enabling us to learn from their experiences, garner helpful information and discuss possible local solutions that will make a difference to the people in our communities that we want to help."

The group is working together to test possible solutions locally in Port Talbot and then if it’s successful scale the changes across Wales and the UK to help as many people who have money worries as possible.

Research already carried out by Tai Tarian, with the Money Advice Service, has shown that over 19% of people in Neath Port Talbot have over-indebtedness - defined as missing bill payments in three or more months out of the last six, and finding meeting monthly bills a heavy burden.

In some areas of the borough this rose to 25%.

To find out more about how it can practically help people with this problem, Tai Tarian has set up a group made up of tenants and local people to understand the experiences of living with debt and is working with the group to find solutions.

A number of actions are being taken including;

training staff to have the confidence to talk to tenants about money worries, offer support and signpost them to services that can offer debt advice
exploring ways of increasing responsible lending locally
providing opportunities for people to learn about and grow their own fruit and vegetables in the community.

Speaking after the meeting, Michael Sheen praised the work of the group.

“The aim of the Alliance and this group is to bring people together to discuss all the issues and look at how we can influence the system to make it work more effectively for the people who need it the most,” he said.

“It’s really important that the work that we do is connected to a community and is developed by people themselves with local organisations who can support them and provide practical solutions that will really help to reduce the impact of debt problems.

“The work this group is doing with Tai Tarian is hugely beneficial and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few months bring.”

The Wales Affordable Credit Group is integral to the work of the Alliance which is made up of organisations across the UK who collaborate to raise the issues, gather intelligence and take action with a view to taking a systems change approach to the problems of high cost credit.

Other members include Public Health Wales, Neath Port Talbot Council for Voluntary Service, Welsh Government, Toynbee Hall, Credit Unions Wales and Principality Building Society.