Sunday, 30 September 2012

#CfRCconference2012 - what was that all about?

Karen Michael from the London Borough of Southwark talking about the Universal Credit pilot in Southwark

On Wednesday 26th September, Emma Bryn-Jones went to the annual conference of the Centre for Responsible Credit, in London, a fantastic charity that works under the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion.

The CfRC conference is always a highlight because it brings together an effective mix of alternative and mainstream thought. For instance, alongside government ministers and their shadows, you will find international authorities on evaluating credit use, as well as local projects to tackle indebtedness and promote financial inclusion. This year was no exception.

Our focus was to learn more about welfare reform, so we skipped debt advice with the Money Advice Service and payday lending with Stella Creasy, to get stuck in with ideas and experiences we know less about. Highlights of the day included a superb presentation from Toynbee Hall, about development research to map the impact of money advice and other financial inclusion work, and some inspired community participation that harnessed Buy As You View customers from Teeside, with the company that serves them.

“I take away more questions than conclusions,” said Emma.“The immediate issue seems to be how Universal Credit will be paid, to a household rather than to an individual, potentially into a managed or prepaid account, if you are unbanked or not paying bills on time, and this raises all sorts of issues about independence, risk taking and decision-making. We are in very real danger of some of the poorest people paying for the right to bank in this country, which feels very wrong,” said Emma.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Life is too important to be taken seriously

I may get into trouble for posting this pic, but I don't care!  It seems to be cached at Pinterest but I am pretty damned sure they don't own the copyright, since it has been engraved on my memory for well over 30 years. That said, I'll give them #duecredit for allowing me to share it with you, because it has guided me throughout my entire adult life.


You see, this photo, together with the caption "LIfe is too important to be taken seriously" was on a motivational poster, illustrated with photos of animals, in my form room, when I was at school. I loved it and still do.

Perhaps because my parents collected models of elephants and religiously pointed them facing the doorway, I have a thing about elephants. Elephants never forget.

Every day in my work at Zero-credit, I never forget my childhood. It looms as an atavistic call to stand by what generations of my family have strived for, social justice, human rights, empathy with one's fellow man. Life is so important that you just have to embrace, nurture and love it for every second of every day. It makes me cry until I am overwhelmed with joy at the sheer blinding and blissful simplicity of it all.

You cannot destroy me with all your regulations and reforms, your ducking and diving to avoid these, or your connivance to come out on top, for you are at one with me. There is nothing which places one human being above another in this world, nothing whatsoever.

Lift me out of poverty, destitution and debt, would you? Quit standing on my shoulders and I shall achieve the greatest heights. No. We shall achieve our greatest heights together. I am reminded of Will Smith at Live8 citing our "state of interdependence". So, before you frown, why not laugh with me?  Life is way too important to be taken seriously.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Would YOU pay for debt help?

Understanding the range of help available to debtors is essential for two reasons. Firstly, it prepares us to act against any adversity (sensible in a vulnerable economy) and secondly, it allows us to contribute to outcomes that are fair to the consumer. The latter is important because when we stigmatise debtors, we create conditions that are ripe for abuse. 

Collectively, we owe around £1.5 trillion in personal borrowing – per capita, that’s about 122% of average earnings. When you increase the availability of credit as we did over the first decade of the millennium, it follows that you increase the extent of indebtedness. To be a debtor is no longer extraordinary, yet to share the experience openly remains taboo.

Reliable debt help can be elusive in the UK – it is all too easy to profit from shame. “On their heads be it,” you may say, “debtors are irresponsible”, but for every penny that is diverted into profit, we pay the price. Yet, who is without profit-motive in the incentive to repay?

Impartial money advice is least likely to prevail within the vulnerability of indebtedness. From the politician who seeks election, to the charity that needs funding, the business that must be viable, professionals who protect their employment, the lender who earns interest and the borrower who seeks relief, we all have a stake in failed credit agreements.

In Who Pays for Debt help? we advised that “UK debt professionals have four months to come up with a workable plan to provide a consistent standard of debt help – specifically for Debt Management Plans”. Isn’t it time you had your say?

We’ll be blogging more on funding for debt help and the Debt Management Protocol over the coming weeks and welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Can't pay? Must pay...


Still struggling with the autopost of a boo-player - we'll get there...

#duecredit to @kangaroocaught who inspired Emma to think even further about the costs of living

Monday, 3 September 2012

Back Attack


Getting back to work after the summer break and gearing up for our third year of trading as a co-operative!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Wake up and smell the coffee!


Goodness, a lot has changed on Audioboo - looks like we may need to invest in a Plus or Pro account. Still, #duecredit to the developers - it's a great product!