If you've been reading the UK Poverty Post (as I most certainly hope you have: http://www.oxfamblogs.org/ukpovertypost/ ) recently, then you'll know I popped round to see an old friend the other day. For her sins she collects loan repayments. In point of fact, I have a couple of friends who do this, one working for Provident and the other with a Credit Union – it fits in well with being a Mum and I guess that's why so many doorstep borrowers trust such collections.
Odd really. Only yesterday, most news programmes ran a feature on John Kiely, the 36 year old loan shark who made the lives of thousands in East Manchester utterly miserable. He got five years, which is laughable when you consider it likely that his debtors were on the receiving end of all manner of assault and abuse, not to mention the fact that his profits may have come from tax payers' money because he is most likely to have preyed on those receiving benefits.
Now you may well sit back and reflect that people on benefits should not be borrowing in the first place – and to some extent I'd be with you, because Zero-credit's aim is to reduce our dependence on consumer borrowing entirely – but when you think of the realities of a washing machine or a car breaking down, a late salary or benefit payment, there are times when each and every one of us believes that we have little choice, especially when there are dependents involved.
Spending time with both of my friends recently has brought home the realisation that even when individuals work in finance, they can still miss out on vital savings, often for basic needs: warmth, shelter, food. For those with reduced means, the isolation is great - there may not be a local CAB, bank or post office, they may not have or understand Internet access and then there's the stigma of friends who have what they do not - who, in our current society, will own up to that? All of a sudden, the doorstep lender becomes very appealing and then, it really ain't what you know, it's who you know...
Posted @ 09:45:19 on 06 August 2009