Churches step up fight for better lending

The first steps towards a national network of churches, communities and credit unions will be unveiled today at a launch, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury's Task Group on Responsible Lending.

The Church Credit Champions Network (CCCN) aims to create a network of people who will bring together churches, communities and responsible lenders.

The scheme is being piloted in three Church of England Dioceses - Southwark, Liverpool and London.

The members will act as advocates for the community finance providers.

The keynote address will be given by Sir Hector Sants, former Chief Executive of the Financial Services Authority and Head of Compliance and regulatory affairs for Barclays Bank, who convenes the Archbishop's Task Group.

The event will be chaired by the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, who has a long track record in advocating credit unions and who is leading the campaign in the Diocese of London.

Sir Hector said: "This is a grass roots initiative that will only succeed with the enthusiasm and engagement of the local Church. Central to this engagement will be the flexibility to adapt to local circumstances and the willingness to learn from all as we go along. I hope that today's event will demonstrate to you the impact success in this area would have, not only on the mission of the Church, but also, crucially, on individual lives.

'I am confident that the successful implementation of the Church Credit Champions Network will equip churches to be even more relevant to their local communities, and transform the lives of the many people we hope will be served as a result."

Bishop Adrian added: "I am very excited about the launch of the Church Credit Champions Network. The leadership shown by Archbishop Justin and Sir Hector Sants has inspired us. We are aiming to train and resource churches in London and Liverpool to become key partners of their local credit union.

"This is a much-needed step in building the profile and strength of credit unions - which are a vital, ethical source of credit for our local communities."

Sir Hector will highlight that financial distress is one of the principle causes of social detriment.

Hi will say, a few statistics to remind us why:

the debt of the average UK household, excluding mortgages, is now almost £13,000

7 million people are using high cost credit providers

1m payday loans are taken out each month

1.4 m people have no bank account

He will say: "These statistics are in themselves justification for action, but for me, even more concerning is encountering the impact of financial distress at the personal level.

"Over the last few months I have met many individuals who are in financial distress and such encounters have brought home to me the extent of the personal suffering that results.

"Christians Against Poverty, the well-known debt advice charity, has shared with me the following statistics about their debt advice clients:

36% have contemplated or attempted suicide.

67% visited their GP due to the negative effects of debt.

76% said that their financial situation had adversely affected their primary relationship.

23% said their relationship had broken down entirely.

42% were prescribed medication due to the negative effects of debt."

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