The Coronavirus crisis continues to have a huge impact on British society. Schools and workplaces are shut, most shops are closed, and hospitals are experiencing an unprecedented strain on their resources. Worse, many in our community are affected by the virus itself, either personally or through their friends or family. Some, of course, are sadly dying.
The economic impact from this virus is considerable and will be far-reaching. We are hearing of many families whose incomes have evaporated overnight; the self-employed are especially impacted as there are many scenarios that the government’s financial aide schemes don’t cover. Some of the employed are affected too, often those whose financial resilience is difficult at the best of times. Those on part time hours, zero hours contracts, and heavily dependent on overtime are especially affected.
There has never been a time when credit unions were more needed than now. We have a deep understanding of the fragility of the finances of many of our residents, and we spend our time helping those who need a helping hand. Our core values of ethical lending and encouraging a savings habit are relevant now and will, I suspect, be more widely favoured in the future. For many, the shock of what has happened will be enormous, and they will want to find ways to save a safety cushion. That is bread and butter for us, and we will be ready and eager to help.
At Stockport Credit Union we have spent the last few months modernising. We have upgraded a lot of our IT infrastructure, without which we could not have successfully made the transition to home working. We have embedded new working practices and improved our levels of service, and we have an even stronger commitment to widening our reach. I cannot say that we did this specifically to be ready for Corona, but our hard work has left us in a good position. We are now entirely working from home and are successfully doing all the usual deposit and withdrawal transactions for savings, and we continue to provide loans both for existing members and for people who approach us for the first time.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen a steep rise in people needing small loans to pay for food and utilities. In the last week we have put in place a scheme for one of our local partners which will provide emergency loans for this purpose, and we are in talks with other partners for similar schemes. We are about to launch a major recruitment drive for new members which will raise funds to further extend our reach into our local community. In a time of crisis, we are looking for new ways to help.
Our collection points and our head office are temporarily closed, but Stockport Credit Union has never been more open for business and ready to help than it is today. If you need a small loan and don’t know where to turn, turn to us. We’re ready to welcome you as a member.
Stay safe, stay well.
CEO, Stockport Credit Union