ABCUL launches Work Not Worry social media campaign

ABCUL – the Association of British Credit Unions – has launched a social media campaign, Work Not Worry, to raise awareness of the benefits of partnerships with credit unions among employers and to encourage more employers to establish new relationships with their local credit union.

Evidence suggests that financial stress costs the UK economy £121bn (Neyber 2016) and 30% of employees are making uninformed financial decisions about saving and spending (CIPD, 2017). 26% of working age adults in the UK have no savings and 1 in 4 workers have lost sleep over money worries (CIPD, 2017).

Work Not Worry

Credit unions offer savings and affordable loans with payments deducted from pay and, for over 30 years, employers have used the services of credit unions in their workplace. This includes household brands and institutions such as Admiral Insurance, Royal Mail, British Airways and the NHS. Research funding by Citi Foundation states that 70% of employees who take advantage of credit union partnerships feel more financially capable and better supported and 83% of employer partnerships demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility to staff by providing a material benefit at little or no cost to them.

A majority of employers say working with credit unions improves the financial capability of staff and thus helps create a more productive and better supported workforce.  This is backed by Money Advice Service research on employer best practices on financial challenges and their impact in the workplace, which states that 59% of employees with current financial worries say money concerns prevent them from performing their best at work.

A lack of savings is a major problem for many workers, but credit unions’ offer Save As You Borrow  – which asks people to save a small amount while repaying their loan – and this has great benefits in creating a savings habit.  Research by the Fairbanking Foundation found that while only 26% of credit union borrowers saved regularly before joining their credit union, 71% intend to save regularly after repaying their loan.

Matt Bland, Head of Policy & Communications at ABCUL, said: “In our conversations with employers, it is clear that many are not aware of the financial difficulties facing their staff.  Those that are have sadly seen it became a serious issue in the workplace before they had chance to respond. We regularly hear horror stories of people falling into a downward cycle of repeated and escalating payday loans.

“Credit unions have a proved track record of turning borrowers into savers. Research such as the Save As You Borrow report proves that credit unions are playing a vital role in helping their members become financially responsible. The report shows that credit unions turn 71% of borrowers into savers and that 96% of employees that are encouraged to use payroll deduction through the credit union have found it helpful.

“All employers have to do once a partnership is set up is spend a couple of minutes making the deductions each pay day – one file transfer, one payment. All employees have to do is agree to a deduction of their choice per month – and it comes directly from their salary, making life easy for everyone.”

The campaign runs for four weeks from 9 July – 3 August. For more information about the campaign and to search for a credit union partnership, visit http://worknotworry.org/

Credit union marks Armed Forces Day with Forces Finance commitment

London Mutual Credit Union launches a dedicated new financial support service for the armed forces on this year’s Armed Forces Day (Saturday 30th June).

Forces Finance PhotoSince first partnering with the Ministry of Defence in 2015, London Mutual Credit Union has provided £2 million worth of loans to over 1000 armed forces personnel, saving them an estimated £1.3 million compared to the cost of high street lenders and various payday lenders such as Wonga.

The new Forces Finance initiative will give serving members of the armed forces and their families access to a range of specially developed financial services which meet the unique requirements of armed forces personnel.

London Mutual Credit Union is a financial co-operative that exists for the benefit of its members who live and/or work in the London boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster or Camden, and serving members of the British Armed Forces. Established in 1982, London Mutual Credit Union has over 28,000 member-owners.

Historically, service personnel have encountered difficulties accessing credit and other financial services, due in part to moving regularly and not being able to build up a good credit rating. Some have also been targeted by payday loan companies.

Lucky Chandrasekera, Chief Executive of London Mutual Credit Union, says: “Our figures show the clear demand for financial services built around the specific needs of armed forces personnel and their families. The disruptive and often highly mobile nature of life in the services can make financial planning difficult for many service personnel, as well as making it harder to build an address history or a strong credit record.”

Unlike banks, credit unions are owned by their borrowers and savers and serve a specific community. This enables them to offer advantageous rates, products and terms tailored to the specific circumstances of their members.

Lucky adds: “The launch of the Forces Finance service is designed to build on our experience of working with armed services personnel over the past three years and underscores our commitment to delivering a bank built around ‘serving those who serve’.”

In the months ahead, the credit union will work with its 1000 members who are in the armed forces to design new financial products and member benefits built around the needs and realities of forces life.

In addition, on this year’s Armed Forces Day the credit union will launch a dedicated website and large scale marketing campaign designed to reach serving members of the armed forces.

Montgomery Canal waterway fun in Welshpool

The Canal & River Trust charity is organising a weekend of fun waterway activities at Welshpool Wharf, as part of the Welshpool Transport Festival on 23 and 24 June.

Boathorse Cracker by Dave Barker at Bywater Cruises

Boathorse Cracker by Dave Barker at Bywater Cruises

Free canoeing and coracle taster sessions will be on offer on the Saturday (10.00am-5.00pm) and paddle boarding taster sessions on the Sunday (10.00am-2.00pm). Narrowboat trips, also free courtesy of the Heulwen Trust, will be available throughout the weekend.

These activities and other community events are being promoted by the Canal & River Trust, which manages 2,000 miles of the nation’s waterways, as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded project to restore the Montgomery Canal.

Also on both days will be a rare opportunity to enjoy a horse-drawn boat trip along the Montgomery Canal. For the first time in years, this unique mode of transport will take visitors along the Welsh stretch of the waterway. Trips are heavily subsidised and cost only £2 per person. Tickets are available on the day from the bottom of Smithfield Car Park (postcode SY21 7DD).

Sylvia Edwards, Montgomery Canal community development officer with the Trust, explained: “This special weekend offers visitors a marvellous chance to try out a range of exciting activities on water. Research proves people feel happier and healthier by water so it’s a great event for introducing visitors and local residents to opportunities for enjoying leisure time on the beautiful waterway.

Canoeing

“For people with a more competitive streak, we are hosting a coracle relay race at 2pm on the Saturday. This is free to enter. No previous experience is necessary as participants will have chance to practise in the morning up to midday.

“We hope lots of supporters will come down for the race to cheer on the competitors.”

Teams of four need to have registered their coracle race entry by 21 June by emailing Sylvia.Edwards@canalrivertrust.org.uk or calling 07787 508 635.

Music will keep everything swinging along throughout the weekend and a special charity concert, in aid of the Montgomery Canal restoration, will be held on Saturday night in the Assembly Room at Welshpool Town Hall. Advance tickets at the special price of £8.00 each are available through the Restore the Montgomery Canal website or £10 on the door.

Known for its outstanding natural beauty, wildlife and heritage, the Montgomery Canal runs for 35 miles between England and Wales and is currently only partly navigable. This weekend of community activities are part of a much larger HLF-funded £4 million project which involves the creation of a new three-hectare wildlife habitat within Aston Locks Nature Reserve and navigation restored to 1¼ miles of the canal, from Maesbury to Crickheath in Shropshire.

A dedicated turning point for narrowboats, known as a ‘winding hole’, is also being created, enabling boats to return to the area for the first time since 1936 when the canal was closed. The project includes access improvements to the canal and nearly five miles of towpath upgraded.  The Canal & River Trust works with 15 partner organisations which make up the Montgomery Canal Partnership. The Partnership aims to restore the canal fully within the next decade as a haven for people and nature.

For more information about visiting your local canal, the Montgomery Canal restoration or becoming a Friend of the Canal & River Trust, please go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.

Law still not protecting overcharged disabled taxi passengers

A new law to protect disabled taxi passengers from being overcharged still doesn’t apply because most councils haven’t made the right preparations, according to disability activist research.

Taxi image

Only a third of councils in England, Wales and Scotland have created so-called Section 167 lists, which are needed to hold taxi drivers to account if they discriminate against disabled passengers.

A change in the Equality Act enacted in April last year means that taxi drivers now face fines of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra. But this only applies to vehicles listed on Section 167 lists, which councils need to create.

Comprehensive research of 340 councils by disability activist Doug Paulley shows that most haven’t created them yet and 42 have no intention of ever doing so, despite a government-recommended deadline of October 2017.

The research lays bare the complex problems around the law change, with many councils confused as to their obligations. Around one in six councils that reported having a list in place have not met technical requirements, meaning they may not be legally useable.

The complexity has contributed to low awareness of the law change. No-one outside of London has attempted to use the law to hold taxi drivers to account for overcharging, ignoring or otherwise discriminating against disabled taxi passengers, despite the widespread and ongoing issues that Muscular Dystrophy UK hears from its supporters.

Nirav Shah, who has congenital muscular dystrophy and lives in Nottingham, said: “I’m a regular taxi user, but have had more bad experiences than good. Drivers have refused to take me, or have claimed that their ramp doesn’t work. I have also had some drive off and leave me on the pavement, and companies quoting twice what a metered fare would normally be. Disabled people should be able to get a taxi as easily as everyone else, and they certainly shouldn’t be charged more, but sadly this isn’t the case.”

Paulley’s research also shows:

  • 12 councils have no wheelchair-accessible taxis, with a further 109 having fewer than ten;
  • Only a third of councils provide disability awareness training, vital for ensuring taxi drivers know how to safely work with disabled people.

Muscular Dystrophy UK and Doug Paulley are calling for the Department for Transport to make the lists mandatory, arguing that the current system has proven unworkable.

Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, which lobbied for years for the law change, said: “Taxis are often the only way that disabled people can get from A to B when public transport isn’t an option but the new legislation simply isn’t working to help ensure they can do so safely and fairly. Doug’s research robustly demonstrates the impossible situation that many disabled people find themselves in. Passengers, taxi drivers and councils alike are crying out for clearer guidance, and we need to see the taxi lists made mandatory, to make this well-intentioned law workable.”

Doug Paulley carried out the research following a Select Committee report into the Equality Act 2010 on disability. He said: “This new research provides a mixed bag of results: while some councils have made an effort to create a list, many have fallen foul of the complex fine print in the rules, leaving most passengers unable to use the new legislation. Councils alone can’t unpick the confusion. We need to see a stronger lead from the Department for Transport if disabled people are to get the tools they need to challenge overcharging and unsafe practices.”

Research by Muscular Dystrophy UK in 2016 indicated that a quarter of disabled people have been refused service by a taxi driver, purely because they are disabled.

For more information, visit: www.musculardystrophyuk.org.

 

Rise and Shine for Sunrise Walk

This year’s Sunrise Walk takes place in London on Sunday 3 June and is set to see more walkers than ever raising funds for Shooting Star Chase, which provides children’s hospice care for families across West London and Surrey.

Sunrise Walk PosterNow in its sixth year, the Sunrise Walk has so far attracted over 1,400 walkers who have raised more than £250,000. By taking part in the Sunrise Walk 2018, walkers can help Shooting Star Chase reach its target of £90,000, so the charity can continue providing a lifeline for parents, siblings and other family members who are coping with the devastating loss of a child.

A challenge with a difference, the Sunrise Walk takes participants through the picturesque surroundings of Richmond Park, Richmond Hill, The Thames, Ham Common, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Palace – and the difference? It all begins at 4.30am! Giving participants a chance to see the beautiful sights as the sun rises.

This year, as well as the main 20km route, there is a brand new 10km route, giving everyone from family, friends (and even dogs!) a chance to enjoy the sights at their leisure. The fun doesn’t end when the walk does, as after the walk there will be a celebration breakfast picnic for participants to recharge and refuel.

The funds raised at the Sunrise Walk will help Shooting Star Chase continue to support families from diagnosis to end of life and throughout bereavement with a range of nursing, practical, emotional and medical care.

To find out more about the Sunrise Walk and how you can sign up click here.

Phone Co-op members vote for Transfer of Engagements to Midcounties Co-operative

Members of The Phone Co-op, the UK’s only telecoms co-operative, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of their Board’s recommendation for a transfer of engagements to The Midcounties Co-operative.

Phone Co-op logo91% of members attending The Phone        Co-op’s Special General Meeting in Sheffield on 28 April voted for a merger with Midcounties. 223 votes were cast by delegates attending in person and online, with 202 voting in favour of the motion and 17 against.

The transfer of engagements was confirmed at a second Special General Meeting in Droitwich on 12 May, where it was passed by 75 votes out of 76. The transfer is due to take place on          1 June.

Jane Watts, chair of The Phone Co-op said: “I am delighted that The Phone Co-op’s members have voted to join Midcounties Co-operative. This move will make sure that we have a              co-operative provider of telecoms, as it becomes ever more central to our lives, and extends the offer we can make to our members.

“Our co-operative and ethical values will continue to be central to the service and our staff will contribute their expertise and shared values as we move forward.”

Ben Reid, CEO of Midcounties Co-operative, welcomed the result of the vote which he described as, “…an opportunity to bring together two strong businesses [The Phone Co-op and Co-op Energy, part of Midcounties Co-operative] to create a co-operative utility provider.”

In a separate motion, members attending the Sheffield AGM of The Phone Co-op voted by a simple majority to approve The Phone Co-op’s Strategy for 2018-2022. 136 members voted for the motion, with 50 voting against and 37 abstaining.

The second Special General Meeting was held at Chateau Impney Hotel and Exhibition Centre in Droitwich, Worcestershire. The meeting followed the Midcounties Co-operative AGM which was being held at the same venue earlier in the day.

Charity concert all set to help reopen the Montgomery Canal

Organisers of a charity concert and music festival in Welshpool this summer have announced more details about the event.

Music for the Monty logo

Music for the Monty will be taking place in Welshpool during the Welshpool Transport Festival (Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 June 2018) and more than a dozen musicians and bands have volunteered to busk at sites around Welshpool to raise funds for the Restore the Montgomery Canal appeal.

The evening concert features Welshpool and Shropshire bands, One Crow Sorrow, I am Sam Acoustic and the Shropshire Boatmen, who are donating their talents for free.

All proceeds from ticket sales will be going towards the appeal to reconnect the Montgomery Canal between Powys and Shropshire.

Said David Aylwin of Music for the Monty: “The Montgomery Canal is one of the UK’s most beautiful canals and over the past few years great strides have been made in reopening it to boats. But now we want to help raise awareness – and funds – so that the canal is reopened through to Welshpool and Newtown which will provide a significant tourist boost to the area.

“We are really pleased to be working with Welshpool Transport Festival to provide music around the town, especially in the Canal Wharf area, which is on the Montgomery Canal.”

Tickets for the evening concert priced at £8 are available online at www.musicforthemonty.co.uk.

20,000 young people become Dementia Friends

The Scout Association and Alzheimer’s Society have teamed up to empower young people to help those living with dementia.

20,000 ScoScouts become Dementia Friendsuts have become Dementia Friends, joining the biggest ever social movement to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia. As part of the ‘A Million Hands’ partnership’ between Alzheimer’s Society and The Scout Association, which started in October 2015, Scouts in all four corners of the UK have taken action on dementia.

The partnership will culminate in the Big Moment, where Scouts up and down the UK will unite to deliver a Dementia Friends Information Session in their community throughout April – May 2018, educating and empowering people to take action to tackle stigma around the condition.

Claire Jenkins, Head of Community Engagement at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Someone develops dementia every three minutes, but too many face it alone. There is a lot of fear and stigma still surrounding dementia. The goal of this project with The Scout Association is to ensure that young people are spreading awareness in their communities so that society can better understand the condition – today and in the future.

“Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends helps ensure that people know the issues and challenges that people with dementia face, and can take small actions to help them live a life they love in their community. We’ve found that by working with the Scouts Association, parents feel more comfortable talking about the condition, and young people are empowered to do what they can to help.”

Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. It affects 850,000 people in the UK, with this number set to reach one million by 2021. But too many people with dementia are isolated and face the condition alone.

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends helps to tackle the stigma and lack of understanding around dementia that means many people with the condition experience loneliness and social exclusion.

Claire Bruce, Beaver Scout Leader, said: “I’ve really enjoyed seeing the interaction between young people and people with dementia. With an ageing population, this an issue that is important and which is only going to become more relevant. Being a Dementia Friend is something our Scouts chose, and as active citizens, want to know more about.”

There are over 2.4 million Dementia Friends across England and Wales growing the dementia movement and taking action in their communities. But Alzheimer’s Society argues that more people are needed, from every age group, to end the stigma surrounding dementia. Young people and The Scout Association play a crucial role in ensuring that people with dementia feel included, supported and empowered in their communities.

Become a Dementia Friend by attending a Session or watching the video at Dementiafriends.org.uk. Find out more about the ‘A Million Hands’ project at Amillionhands.org.uk.

Ethos public relations supports charity communications

Ethos public relations is committed to supporting charities and was delighted to sponsor and manage the design and print of a flyer and poster for a new music festival.

Music for the Monty posterMusic for the Monty takes place in June as part of Welshpool Transport Festival. One of the directors of Ethos public relations has been involved in helping to organise the event and Ethos public relations took responsibility for preparing an A4 poster and an A6 flyer to promote it. One of the Ethos team designed the publicity materials and the logo was kindly donated by designer Dave Clucas.

Public relations is important for all types of organisation, but for charities and not-for-profits it is especially important for reaching new and existing supporters. Ethos public relations is committed to helping charities publicise their activities and has worked with many local and national charities in its 20 year history.

This website, which is managed by Ethos public relations, contains lots of useful information to help charities promote their organisation, including advice on social media, video production and photography. There are also some ‘top tips’ on PR for charities.

Shaun Fisher, one of the directors of Ethos public relations, said: “We are passionate about working with charities, community groups and voluntary organisations to get their messages out to the wider public. This isn’t just because it is our business, but because we have a longstanding commitment to raising awareness of the activities and achievements of the charitable sector.”

You can find out more about the work that Ethos public relations does to promote charity events here and to contact Ethos public relations click here.

Music for the Monty takes place on 23 and 24 June 2018 and features an evening concert at Welshpool Town Hall on Saturday 23 June, as well as free music at venues across Welshpool over the weekend. The event has been organised to raise funds for the restoration on the Montgomery Canal which stretches from Shropshire to mid-Wales.

Nine out of ten members rate London Capital Credit Union

Eight in ten credit union members nationally are satisfied with the services offered, while in north London, London Capital Credit Union sees nine out of ten members rating its financial services as ‘very high’.

LCCU logo

The largest ever survey of credit union customers, published by Financial Inclusion Centre, found that 81% of members across the country were extremely satisfied or very satisfied with their credit union, while 84% said they would recommend a friend or family member. This compares to a recent Which? survey showing that mainstream banks’ average overall customer satisfaction score was only 68%.

Islington-based London Capital Credit Union is one of the largest and fastest growing credit unions in the capital, with over 15,000 members and outstanding lending of nearly £12 million. As a not-for-profit co-operative, London Capital Credit Union provides savings and low cost loans to people living, working or studying in Barnet, Camden, City of London, Hackney, Haringey and Islington.

Financial Inclusion Centre research also demonstrated just how important the broad range of financial services being delivered by these not-for-profit financial providers are, with the majority of respondents using their credit union as an affordable and fair source of borrowing – giving them an invaluable alternative to high-cost credit such as payday loans, rent-to-own firms and door-step lenders.

Credit unions work hard to help their members understand financial issues and members are shown to score well compared to the general population on a range of financial capability measures, saying they feel they have their finances under control and are confident in dealing with money matters.

Martin Groombridge, Chief Executive of London Capital Credit Union, said: “The findings of the largest ever credit union customer satisfaction survey back up what we see at London Capital Credit Union and show that most members are extremely satisfied with the services provided.

“With the current pressures on household finances, credit unions such as ours provide an essential lifeline for many, offering affordable loans in time of need and supporting people to develop a saving habit. At London Capital Credit Union, we believe it is important to help people make the most of their finances and this survey shows the hugely positive contribution that credit unions make to our communities.”

Mick McAteer, Co-Director of Financial Inclusion Centre, added: “These results are very encouraging and go to show that credit unions are highly regarded by those that use them, with higher satisfaction rates than mainstream banks.”

 A copy of the report, ‘An Insight into Credit Union Membership’, can be found here.