We warmly welcome the announcement by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that the Church of England aims to put payday lenders out of business by supporting the network of credit unions.
Credit unions provide a vital source of affordable credit for people on low incomes, and churches are in an ideal position to support and strengthen the network.
As Archbishop Justin noted, however, it will take decades to do this. In the meantime, high-cost lenders of all sorts continue to exploit their vulnerable customers, who have nowhere else to go. Church Action on Poverty therefore believes that, in addition to supporting fairer alternatives, we must act to regulate the high-cost lending industry. In the coming months, as part of our ‘Food, Fuel, Finance’ programme, we will be mobilising churches to campaign for the following policies:
- Government should place a cap on the amount any company can charge for credit.
- There should be a compulsory code of practice which requires lenders to take account of a customer’s ability to repay a loan before lending money – taking account of loans from other lenders.
- There should be a data sharing system used by all high-cost lenders, enabling low-income customers to build up a credit history and move on to more affordable mainstream sources of credit.
Media reports this week suggested that our call for legislation somehow puts us “at odds” with Archbishop Welby. This is not accurate. We fully support the Church of England’s actions, and believe that they complement our own call for legislation.