Imagine you’re in a low-earning or non-working household, and have a grand total of £85 in the bank. Imagine your fridge breaks, or the baby outgrows their cot. What happens next?
With more than 11 million people having less than £100 in savings, households across the country face this sort of agonising dilemma every day.
Broadly, they have two options – go without or pay a premium for the essential goods they need. The first, leaving children without a decent meal or a proper bed, absolutely shouldn’t be tolerated in the UK in 2020. The second is equally unpalatable; there are plenty of ‘rent to own’ retailers and high-cost lenders ready to take advantage of families in their time of need.
Both create a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the whole family, and make it harder to keep the household financially stable and paying its bills.
It is recognised that there is a dearth of affordable options for those unable to access mainstream credit. The social enterprise that I lead is helping to change that. Since 2015, Fair for You (FfY) – a non-profit lender – has issued more than 70,000 loans totalling more than £23 million, saving at least £37 million of the ‘poverty premium’ our customers could have incurred at the hands of other lenders.
FfY provides flexible and supportive loans for essential items, with no late-payment fees. Many of the women who use us have suffered, or are at risk of, financial domestic abuse, and appreciate that we don’t issue cash loans.
It’s a proven, scalable model – and we’ve just been given that ability to scale. We’re delighted to be one of five organisations to have received funds from dormant assets via the government-backed Fair4All Alliance, which should allow us to reach 111,000 new customers a year by 2025.
Affordable credit has the potential to transform lives and be a safety net for vulnerable families across the UK. I hope local authorities can work with us and fellow providers to make that happen.