AMID the conflict and drama of politics, it is easy to forget that politicians hope to make a positive difference to the lives of other people. We may disagree about methods but every decent politician wants to lift people out of poverty.
More than 5,000 people become homeless each year because of rent or mortgage debts. In 2011, almost half of lowest income households were spending more than a quarter of their income on debt repayments. Around 3 million low-income households have no savings, so they have to borrow at high rates to cover unexpected costs which is a concern because of the debt’s size relative to income and the ability to repay it without consequences. People in serious debt face hunger, eviction, chronic anxiety and the desperation which comes from a life without hope. Post goes unopened and matters escalate with oppressive phone calls, bailiffs and all the rest.
People will know that Iain Duncan-Smith established the Centre for Social Justice a few years ago; one of its key priorities was to understand clearly the reasons why people might find themselves in poverty. These have been identified as: serious personal debt; family breakdown; educational failure; worklessness; and addictions. Often, these are experienced together.
Helping people with debt was the theme of the recent Love Wycombe celebration in Frogmoor. It was wonderful to be part of the crowd and see the launch of Christians Against Poverty and the promotion of the local credit union. These organisations work to support people to budget and manage their debts, working towards a situation where they are debt free. Once people are in a position to budget and save, credit unions can help.
Local people have worked hard to deliver the South Buckinghamshire Community Bank with M for Money Credit Union. Credit Unions are financial cooperatives and allow people to express solidarity through mutual support: they pay dividends to their members, not shareholders. In addition to a basic savings account, the Community Bank offers Christmas, summer holiday and back-to-school savings clubs. The credit union will make manageable loans of up to three times what has been saved in the basic savings account, with a fixed interest rate of 2%.
Overwhelmingly, good and kind people live in Wycombe who want to help others out of poverty to enable them to live full and free lives. I hope these schemes will be widely supported by people of all faiths and none