At a time when the UK's largest banks are again reporting record profits - more than £40bn at the last count - there are large sections of the population who cannot get bank accounts and credit. Barclays (which has profits of £7.14bn, up 35 per cent on the previous year) is the most active of the high-street banks in addressing financial exclusion through its corporate social responsibility programmes.
The bank has donated £130,000 (0.0018 per cent of its profits) to credit unions and community development finance institutions and it is a core member of the Community Development Finance Association. "Barclays' support for community finance is saying that, as a mainstream high-street bank, we can't reach everyone, we can't do everything and we realise there will be some gaps, so we can support organisations that might fill those gaps," says Jenna Eastlake, senior financial inclusion manager at the bank.
The bank has given the CDFA a £90,000 grant to support its Step Change seminar programme, which offers advice to members on business planning, marketing, PR and how to deal with loans that people fail to pay back.
The grant, which is CDFA's largest corporate donation to date, pays half the attendance costs of participants and funds small development grants. The programme was launched in June last year and will run for 12 months.
Ultimately the aim is to grow the portfolios of members, says Sarah McGeehan, deputy chief executive of the CDFA. "Barclays is a lead partner," she says. "We are both interested in expanding markets from a commercial point of view and delivery of services that are needed from a not-for-profit point of view." The programme could be extended when it ends in June.
Barclays says it is still interested in supporting the capacity building of the sector.