Credit Unions in the UK
A credit union is a cooperative savings and loan club. Nearly a third of adults in the Irish Republic, and of Catholics in Northern Ireland, are members of a credit union. But ten years after the Credit Union Act, there are still only about 140 credit unions in Britain, serving about 35,000 people.
There is growing public interest in their potential value - especially to poor communities. But the unions themselves have to take difficult decisions. Should they adopt an idealistic approach, concentrating on small self-help groups in the poorest communities? Or should they focus on instrumental considerations, building up large credit unions among people with money to save?
Richard Berthoud and Teresa Hinton have undertaken the first major independent study of the work of credit unions in the United Kingdom. They have analysed the unions' accounts; interviewed credit union leaders and development workers; and surveyed a sample of the members themselves.
The authors conclude that members of credit unions enjoy a number of social and economic benefits; but the majority of them still save and borrow in the open market as well. The success of credit unions in Ireland has depended on the active support of the Catholic Church. Although a number of new unions have been set up recently in Britain, changes in the organisations which support and supervise the movement are probably needed if the long term prospects are to improve.ISBN: 085374405X