Michael Sheen has backed the launch of a new £1m fund to help tackle the poverty premium for low-income borrowers in Scotland.
Carnegie UK Trust’s Affordable Credit Loan Fund is aiming to offer an alternative to people who have nowhere to turn when they are in dire financial straits – other than high interest and doorstep lenders.
Instead of the least usually paying the most for their credit, the fund, delivered in partnership with Social Investment Scotland, is aiming to help more people access affordable credit.
Cash from the fund will be delivered on a not-for-profit basis by a range of social enterprises as a repayable loan over 10 years. Each provider will back up the money with a wide range of financial inclusion services, ranging from debt advice and savings opportunities to income maximisation.
Hollywood actor Sheen, who is a long-standing champion of social enterprise and is a Patron of Social Enterprise UK, has helped to unveil the fund by narrating a new short film Speaking out for Fair Credit that highlights testimonies from customers across Scotland and calls for support of the not-for-profit lending sector from the government, business community and civil society.
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He said: “High cost credit has for too long been targeted at those who can least afford it and those who are most vulnerable in our society. The need for ethical alternative providers is clear, whether they be on our local high streets or available online.
“But it’s not just about creating more providers – we need to do more to enable them to compete with the high cost providers and to provide vital financial support to communities across the UK, putting people before profit.”
— Gail Irvine (@Gail_CarnegieUK) January 23, 2018
Sir John Elvidge, chair of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “We want to support better alternatives for some of our most financially excluded citizens, allowing them to borrow money in a fair, affordable and responsible way. This fund will help social investors demonstrate that they can provide a responsible and sustainable solution to the complex problem of access to affordable loans.”
Big Issue Invest has also targeted the poverty premium by backing ethical lender Fair For You. The Big Issue’s social investment arm loaned the not-for-profit financial firm £1 million last November to help them offer affordable credit to the 15 million adults who are excluded from mainstream credit sources.
Elsewhere, Big Issue founder Lord John Bird’s proposed Creditworthinesss Assessment Bill is currently awaiting a hearing of the whole House in parliament. The private member’s bill is aiming to make rental payments a compulsory part of a credit score.