A new organisation has been launched to offer financial advice and services to people who are excluded from the mainstream banking sector.
Fair Finance was developed by a steering group of housing associations, community groups and businesses that deal with financial exclusion and exploitation. It will open its first branch in Stepney, east London, and is currently recruiting two members of staff to deliver personal finance and micro-credit business loans.
The organisation has been registered as an industrial and provident society, and is planning to seek charitable status. It is supported and will be funded for three years by Barclays Bank, the Department of Trade and Industry, the European Union and the Ocean New Deal for Communities local regeneration fund.
As many as 4 million people regularly use high-interest finance companies and loan sharks that charge interest rates of 180 per cent or more. According to Fair Finance, a further 7 million people are on the margins of the banking system, with only limited access to financial help or advice.