A Wiltshire and Swindon organisation which loans money to people on low incomes to prevent them from resorting to payday lenders has been voted the best in the south at a financial website’s annual awards.
Wiltshire and Swindon Credit Union (WASCU) won the Best Credit Union (South) category in Smart Money People’s 2022 Consumer Credit Awards. The site is the UK’s largest financial review website.
Judging was based on reviews left on the site by people who use services registered with Smart Money People. In more than 170 reviews, WASCU earned an average of 4.94 out of 5 stars, which, said chairman of trustees Nick Gallop, is a testament to the quality of the service delivered by its staff.
“The staff in the office dealing with members have done a fantastic job and this is a reward for that,” he said. “I am delighted for everyone involved with the organisation and it is very satisfying to be recognised like this. I see it as a motivation to do more.”
The group, formed in 2016 from four separate credit unions across Wiltshire, is based in Cavendish Square, Swindon but has collection points across the county, including at Salisbury Library. It lends more than £1 million a year to 3,500 active members and is seeing a steady rise in demand, in part because of the cost of living crisis.
Its loans are designed to help families who are unable to get credit elsewhere to prevent them from going to payday loan companies with crippling interest rates or even illegal loan sharks. Members open savings accounts and, provided they meet loan criteria, can take out loans, which are repaid monthly.
Its most popular product is its Family Loan, which requires members to have their Child Benefit paid into their savings account. They can then take out a maximum £500 loan and the credit union takes its weekly repayment direct from the benefit before passing on the balance the same day.
The awards cover the entire credit industry, including loan providers, credit unions, credit information partners, retail finance and more.
Alongside the star ratings, members were encouraged to leave reviews of the service. “When you need to borrow money the only ones who will offer you anything are payday loans with the most ridiculous APR rate that you are paying back double,” wrote one member.
“The credit union will only offer what you can afford and prompt you to save with no ridiculous APR. I’ve been using this credit union for a few years now and it’s helped me through Christmas, the replacement of white goods and a family holiday. I couldn’t have achieved this without being able to borrow from them.”
Another added: “I was overjoyed when the credit union were able to assist me after an accident left me struggling to work and support my eight-year-old. The professional care, efficiency and empathy were second to none and I can’t recommend this organisation enough.”
One member said the service is a great resource when money is tight. “I have been both a borrower and a saver – the latter these days but they were there years ago when I needed them and I haven’t forgotten,” she wrote. “I still save into my account, albeit a little every month. Most useful that it comes out of my salary and I can just forget about it.”
Mr Gallop said: “The special thing we have done is provide a quality of service and a way of treating people with dignity. Some of those who come to us, they were just managing to survive and then their fridge stopped working or they needed to buy new shoes for three kids going back to school.
“We treat them in a really helpful and constructive way and because of that they have left these lovely reviews of our service and it is wonderful that this is why we’ve won this award.”
To find out more about the credit union’s service at wascu.co.uk.