Challenges in communities are too obvious for credit unions – The Irish Times

Like credit union staff across the country, Angela Healy gets a sense of the state of the economy and how people are coping with the challenges it presents from the amount people save and why they come to borrow.

It’s a mixed picture at the moment, she suggests, with the pandemic and the lockdowns it has brought still making its presence felt in the loans taken out for the holidays people have promised themselves and are working on. gardens, the importance of which has become all too evident over the years. last two years.

However, as inflation continues to rise and the challenge it poses simply to pay the costs of daily living increases, anything customers seek to borrow for cannot be described as a luxury.

“We are getting a flurry of holiday enquiries,” says Ms Healy, director of Blackpool Credit Union in Cork.

“People feel the need to escape. On average, they are looking for loans of €2,000 to finance their holidays. The other big one would be home improvements. They also borrow to improve their gardens because people no longer look at their garden in the same way. And people are taking car loans from us at 7%.”

Once August rolls around, however, households will face back-to-school costs which, like almost everything else, will be higher than ever.

Returning a student to secondary school can cost €1,500 or more for a student, between the cost of books, transport, uniforms, sports equipment and other equipment. “Sometimes there could be a lack of money for them to come to us and we hope to bridge that gap for them,” she says.

Blackpool Credit Union has 6,500 members and the area it is based in, on the north side of Cork, is a predominantly working-class area which, in addition to established residents, is home to a transient population of young people working in multinationals such as Apple.

Ms. Healy says some members reportedly struggled financially during the recession. “They got away with it with our help. We might have restructured a loan for them. However, some have fared better during the pandemic, and credit union savings have increased by 6%.

Changing economic landscape

As builder and chairman of the board of Blackpool Credit Union, Sean Coleman has extensive first-hand experience of how costs are rising and is concerned about the changing economic landscape.

A member of Fianna Fáil, he does not believe that a government can control people’s cost of living “because of what is happening economically with the war in Ukraine. Governments can’t do much, but you can’t keep up with inflation.

“People have to assess where they are going. The unions are demanding an increase in their rate, house prices are rising, materials are rising, and there is a shortage of housing. I think there will be a crash in six to nine months. I don’t think any of this is sustainable.

According to him, the more personal community nature of credit unions gives them a special role and makes it easier to connect with people.

“Sometimes you need a little support and that’s why people turn to a credit union,” he says.

That, it seems, isn’t likely to change any time soon.

Comments are closed.