I have lived and worked in Birmingham all my adult life, the last 10 years almost exclusively in providing affordable credit as an alternative to high cost credit, firstly running a credit union and then Fair for You (FFY).
It’s a generalisation, but on the whole my customers are women, in lower income households, with some caring obligation and part time work.
‘Managing Mums’ is a term that has been coined in recent months. I would say they are sassy, switched on, entrepreneurial, hard working, and not really managing very well at all. Or at least they are, until something goes wrong when they need access to fair, affordable and well designed credit.
I have sat in rooms over the last 10 years, hearing that my customers need financial education, budgeting advice and debt advice.
I believed strongly throughout that they need better alternatives to the credit options that are currently available.
In 2014, we spent hours listening to mums of younger children in Northfield, Birmingham tell us very frankly and
openly about their experience with high cost credit. I went in there thinking I knew what Fair for You would look like, and I came out knowing what it had to look like.
Some amazing people have backed our work over the last 3 years. But we never lost what we were told, and we delivered what they needed.
High cost credit isn’t just expensive – all versions of high cost credit have that in common. But the other common trait is that it is designed for the benefit of the lender, and to take maximum extraction from the customers’ finances.
Termed the ‘poverty premium’ – it has long been recognised that there is an additional cost to poor households purchasing essential goods and services – those who have less consumer power.
Whilst the amount of that premium fluctuates in various assessments, it is always consistent that the lion’s share is made up of high cost credit turned to when faced with emergencies.
These households need credit when hit by emergencies, as they have less insulation and resilience to relatively minor emergencies.
There seems little point in measures to address poverty in the UK, without removing the poverty premium. Let’s be clear, the problem is entirely man made – one man’s greed over another man’s need. Or more frequently, in my experience, a mother’s need to provide essentials for her family.
On 22nd March we release the 3rd Social Impact Report relating to the work of Fair for You – a national challenger to high cost credit that directly responds to all of the needs we identified in our research. Now I don’t just have the voices of the mums who came to all of the sessions we ran, I have thousands of voices of customers whose financial situation we have changed because they have access to an alternative.
They prove every day, that they don’t need education and advice, they need better alternatives.
The outcomes for them and their household are completely staggering. This isn’t just about saving money – though we do save them a lot of money – we calculate that is close to £3m in our first 15 months, compared to using rent to own stores.
It is proven time and again that poverty is linked to health, however I am shocked to find that after using our services for just 6 months, that customers report rapid health and well being gains. Half of FFY’s customers report that they are less anxious, stressed or depressed.
Nearly half (45%) have seen an improvement in their physical health, either because the item they have obtained by using FFY has had a direct impact on this; because they are eating better; or because their physical health has improved alongside their mental health.
One third of our customers tell us their children’s health and well being has improved. Around 1,300 children are eating better as a result of FFY, and about 600 children are sleeping better, but most feel their children are benefiting because their home environment is less stressed.
It has been an arduous journey, and a huge thank you to the thousands who have supported us along the way.
It is important that we stop blaming the people who use high cost credit, and deliver better solutions that really meet their needs. Credit that is structured around their income profile, flexible and supportive, highly visible.
When we remove the poverty premium from these households, then other work being done to address poverty has a chance of working.
Fair for You is online, available 7 days a week, customer focused and a modern solution that uses multi-media communications including social media. Put simply, credit delivered with dignity and respect, designed to meet the lives of mums that juggle, struggle and are not really managing at all.
Did I say, our customers love it? We are so proud to be rated among the highest for financial services in the UK according to Trustpilot.
This is not charity, this is fairness.
Please check us out and if you can support our work and our drive to change the way we lend to lower income households, then we would love to talk to you.
Charity Site – www.fairforyou.org.uk
Online Shop – www.fairforyou.co.uk