Community challenges all too obvious to credit unions – The Irish Times


As credit union workers across the country do, Angela Healy gets a feel for how the economy is doing and how people are coping with the challenges people face in saving and the reasons why they borrow.

She suggests it’s a mixed picture at the moment, as the pandemic and associated lockdowns are still making themselves felt in the loans taken out for vacations people have promised themselves and gardening, the importance of which is over the time has become all too clear past two years.

But with inflation continuing to rise and the growing challenge of just financing daily living expenses, not everything customers want to borrow can be described as a luxury.

“We get a flood of leave requests,” says Ms Healy, the manager of Blackpool Credit Union in Cork.

“People feel the need to get away. On average, they are looking for a loan of €2,000 for their vacation. The other big one would be DIY. They also borrow to improve their gardens as people no longer look at their garden in the same way. And people take car loans from us at 7%.”

However, once August arrives, households will have to bear the costs of back-to-school 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, along with the cost of books, transport, uniforms, sports equipment and other equipment. “Sometimes there was a lack of money so they would come to us and we hoped we could fill that gap for them,” she says.

Blackpool Credit Union has 6,500 members and the area in which it is based, on the north side of Cork, is mainly working class, with established residents as well as a transient population of younger people working in multinational companies such as Apple .

Ms. Healy says some members have experienced financial difficulties during the recession. “They made it through with our help. We might have restructured a loan for them.” However, some fared better during the pandemic, and savings at the credit union rose 6 percent.

changing economic landscape

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

As a member of Fianna Fáil, he doesn’t believe any government can control the cost of living “because of what’s happening economically with the war in Ukraine. Governments can only do so much, but they cannot follow inflation.

“People have to assess where they are going. Unions are looking to increase their wages, property prices are rising, material prices are increasing and there is a housing shortage. I think there will be a crash in six to nine months. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The more personal, community-based nature of credit unions, he believes, gives them a distinct role and makes them easier to deal with.

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

It seems that nothing is going to change any time soon.


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