Meet the Partners: Wiltshire Savings and Loans
The Building Bridges programme is a partnership of organisations in Swindon and Wiltshire who have come together to support people who are facing multiple barriers to employment or education. With £3.9 million of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund, the programme hopes to make a real and lasting difference.
In this series of posts we’d like to introduce you to the Building Bridges programme partners – who they are, what they do and how they are supporting participants to make a real change in their lives.
In this post (the first in the series) we caught up with Clive Henly, Chairman of Wiltshire Savings and Loans which is a Wiltshire based credit union and a Building Bridges programme partner.
About Wiltshire Savings and Loans
Wiltshire Savings and Loans is a not-for-profit credit union which supports people who don’t have ready access to High Street banks. The organisation is a community based financial cooperative which is owned and run by its members.
Wiltshire Saving and Loans works directly with people in the local community and a large part of its work is supported by volunteers; from helping at collection points and day-to-day administrative support, right up to board level. This includes volunteers like Clive who offer their valuable time and experience to support people who are experiencing financial hardship.
Aside from being a community bank, credit unions like Wiltshire Savings and Loans provide an important service for people across Wiltshire and Swindon who are financially disadvantaged, especially as far as most high street banks are concerned.
Clive told us:
“It is relatively easy to get a bank account; however some people may struggle to manage money and have times in their lives when they need extra financial support.”
Financially disadvantaged people may be turned away by high street banks because they don’t have a perfect credit history or because the bank is unable to provide the specialist financial support they need. Often, people only need to borrow a few hundred pounds for a washing machine or car repair, but this is below the threshold that most banks would consider for a loan. These individuals may then turn to high street lenders with high interest rates or even illegal lenders like loan sharks, triggering a spiral of debt.
Wiltshire Savings and Loans exists to fill the gap left by high street banks but it is not in competition with them. Instead the organisation sees itself as a complementary service which is fully supported by banks, some of whom offer grants and funding to support the service offered by the credit union.
Building Bridges Programme
Wiltshire Savings and Loans has been helping local people manage their finances since it was established 2005 and has a proven track-record of supporting people who are experiencing financial hardship.
The organisation is a referral partner for the Building Bridges programme, so it is in a good position to support any programme participants who may be experiencing financial difficulty as well as referring eligible people who use its services into the programme.
“We provide financial support to those people who can’t access that help through high street banks. We encourage people to save (when they are able to do so), so that we can then support them by lending them money at low rates when they need it. Often people they don’t hear about us until they actually need support, but this can lead to a long-term membership which will benefit them in the future as well.”
As a result of the programme, Wiltshire Savings and Loans is developing good relationships with other Building Bridges programme partners to extend and promote the service to people in financial hardship across Swindon and Wiltshire, including those eligible for the programme.
Wiltshire Savings and Loans is also keen to work with other local organisations who support people in financial hardship or people who provide financial advice.
The programme is all about helping people to set goals and reach them by addressing their personal barriers, we asked Clive about the goals Wiltshire Savings and Loans has set for their participation in the programme over the next year. He had this to say:
“We hope to reach out to all parts of the community, we’ve talked about people who are just getting by and people who are in financial difficulty and we want to be there to support them. But we also want to reach out to people who are on middle incomes as well because none of us know what’s around the corner and what support we may need tomorrow.
We want to grow as a community bank, so that people think of us as the first place to go rather than a High Street high interest lender when they need support. We also see ourselves as the ethical alternative to banking, as we are run by our members, for the benefit of our community”
If you have any participants that you feel would benefit from Wiltshire Savings and Loan’s support, please get in touch with them via the contact details below.
Sounds good to us! Keep up the great work and we wish you all the best.
Wiltshire Savings and Loans
St Michaels Community Centre
St Michaels Road
Tel: 01722 421881