Mid-Ulster organisations join forces to help those with money worries

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January can be a hard month for many people, the post-Christmas depression can set in as bills mount up, which is why charity StepChange have initiated this week 20th-26th January as Debt Awareness Week.

A number of local charities and organisations across Northern Ireland and indeed in the Mid-Ulster area want to make people aware that help with money problems is available.

Cookstown District Council working alongside Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) and Saint Vincent de Paul to help local people who need advice on money.

Last year the Council ran a very successful Money Management Course in The Hub in Cookstown. The Council are hoping to run this course again for people but as yet no date has been confirmed.

The Council also run an Energy Efficiency Scheme, including Oil Stamp Scheme and Home Accident Prevention to help local people manage their money better.

Before Christmas Saint Vincent de Paul in Cookstown launched a pilot scheme in conjunction with local Credit Unions known as The Emergency Loan.

The Emergency Loan Scheme was set up in response to the payday loan shops which have sprung up in Mid-Ulster.

Cookstown Councillor Deirdre Mayo, who is actively involved with local Credit Unions told the MAIL that she recognised that money worries were having a big impact on local people and something needed to be done.

She said: “Early in 2013 I chanced to speak to someone from St Vincent de Paul who told me that they had read my article which I had published in the Mid-Ulster Mail about the links between money worries and suicides, and decided something needed to be done. They told me about their scheme they were working on, which they saw as being rolled out through the local credit unions. But they weren’t having much success in achieving that. I approached Adrian McCreesh and asked if council could facilitate a series of meetings to progress this. We called together various stakeholders, including CAB, representatives from credit unions, st Vincent de Paul and council staff. Women’s Aid heard about the scheme and came on board.

“The pilot scheme was pitched to us and changes were made to fit in with credit union legislation. Calling all local credit unions to a meeting and trying to get buy-in from them was tricky, but we worked through it, as the end result is bigger than any of us.”

A spokesperson for the Credit Union told the MAIL: “In a bid to combat the ever-growing problem of high cost lenders, and in particular, pay-day loans companies, credit unions in the Cookstown area have joined forces with St Vincent de Paul and Women’s Aid, to provide an alternative, affordable short-term credit option to families and individuals struggling financially.

The scheme, currently being piloted for a six month period, means that SVP and Women’s Aid can refer those in need of a loan to their local credit union, who can grant up to £250, repayable over a maximum of 6 months.

Applicants are referred to the credit union by the sponsoring organisation, and loans offered at the credit union’s standard low interest rate of 1% per month, unlike the extortionate rates of interest imposed by other organisations providing short-term credit.

Credit unions involved in the scheme are: Ardboe Credit Union Ltd, Ballinderry Bridge Credit Union Ltd, Coagh and District Credit Union Ltd, Cookstown Credit Union Ltd, Fairhill and District Credit Union Ltd, Kildress Credit Union Ltd, Moneymore Credit Union Ltd, Pomeroy Credit Union Ltd, Stewartstown Credit Union Ltd.

For more information on credit unions, or to find your local credit union, visit www.creditunionni.co.uk