Actor Michael Sheen has launched a campaign against high-cost lenders in the UK, aiming to promote “fair, affordable” credit.
The Hollywood star and social activist, who is a keen supporter of co-operatives and credit unions, seeks to bring together politicians, charities and tech companies to deliver change and tackle the UK’s debt problem. He defines fair finance as that which does not target consumers with a product they cannot afford. With the launch of the campaign, Michel Sheen also confirmed he would be focusing on championing a social movement for change, putting his Hollywood work on hold.
The End High Cost Credit Alliance will focus on backing providers of affordable finance with funds, investments and expertise, calling for regulatory changes, developing plans to ensure financial education is embedded in schools and engaging the public in debates around the issue of fair finance. In addition, the campaign will seek to support professionals to signpost.
While membership of the Alliance is free, those joining commit to collectively working towards the goal of fair credit for all. As founder of the Alliance, Michael Sheen will be funding some of the investigative work agreed by members and act as lead representative for press, campaigns and public engagement. He is also funding the administration of the Alliance.
The group will be chaired by Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health.
The announcement was welcomed by the Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul). “Michael has been a great supporter and advocate of credit unions for some time, becoming patron of Credit Unions of Wales and releasing video messages in support of credit unions on International Credit Union Day,” said Abcul’s Matt Bland.
“Credit unions are already serving over 1.25 million people in Great Britain and lending almost £900 million to them. They play a crucial role in disrupting high-cost credit and encouraging their members to save through payroll deduction and Save As You Borrow […] Credit unions have huge potential to sustainably serve many millions more of the country’s underserved. We look forward to working with the End High Cost Credit Alliance to make this a reality.”
Co-operatives UK, the trade body for co-operatives across the country, also welcomed the initiative. Head of policy, James Wright, said: “The UK’s credit unions are fast developing viable alternatives to exploitative pay day loan companies. For example, our biggest credit union member, Scotwest, has schemes for easy access loans without high interest charges or hidden fees. We’re excited to hear about Michael Sheen’s campaign and look forward to seeing co-operative solutions as one of the avenues explored.”
Last year the actor attended Co-operatives UK’s annual congress as an individual delegate, where he engaged with other co-operators attending. Since April 2017 he has also been the patron of Social Enterprise UK.