Seafarers’ Charity and Commsave Credit Union launch scheme for fishing families

The move, which offers financial services to workers across the sector, is a response to the increasingly precarious nature of the industry

A new initiative funded by the Seafarers’ Charity will provide access to a range of affordable financial services for fishing families, with Commsave Credit Union already on board as a partner. 

The charity commissioned a report, Fishing Without a Safety Net, which found that that new interventions are needed to create a better financial safety net for fishing families. 

In response, Commsave Credit Union opened its services to the UK fishing community on 15 April.

Commsave has been operating for nearly 30 years and has helped its 30,621 members to save over £86m. In January, its members agreed to support the UK’s fishing community by extending the credit union’s affordable financial services to all fishers, fish processors and fishmongers throughout the UK. Regulatory approval has been obtained and the credit union is now open to workers throughout the fishing industry.

The Seafarers’ Charity has awarded a grant to Commsave to support the development of its new services for the fishing industry. In addition to its regularsavings and loans accounts, the credit union has created financial products designed to suit the financial needs of fishers. 

These include:

Stormy Reserve Fund – a savings account in which money can be set aside and accessed immediately at times when unable to earn an income from fishing.

HMRC Budget & Bill Payment account – this savings account enables regular amounts to be set aside to pay the annual tax and National Insurance bill. At the end of the financial year the credit union can transfer the amount saved to HMRC.

Special loan scheme to support access to government grants that require an up-front capital contribution.

Commsave pays a competitive annual dividend on members’ savings and, for the current financial year, expects the return on members’ savings to be 1.5%. It also provides a free bereavement fund for all members. On death, this fund writes off any outstanding debt to the credit union. In addition, the fund can make a payment to a nominated beneficiary ranging from £500 to £5,000, dependent on the average savings balance of the member over the 12 months prior to death.

Amanda Ivey

Commsave CEO Amanda Ivey said: “We have worked with The Seafarers’ Charity to understand the needs that exist and how we can offer the right products to meet those needs. We have 30 years’ experience in enabling members to access the financial services they need, and we look forward to welcoming new members from fishing communities all over the UK.“

Seafarers CEO Catherine Spencer said: “Our partnership with Commsave Credit Union demonstrates our new approach to tackling need at source and preventing potential problems. Our research demonstrated that fishers experience a high incidence of priority debt problems which can have unfortunate consequences if left unpaid.

Catherine Spencer

“This includes outstanding debts for tax and national insurance payments which have longer-term consequences when trying to access welfare benefits or a state pension, as well as impacting the ability to obtain a mortgage or a car loan. A lack of holiday pay and difficulty obtaining financial products providing protection for sickness, critical injury, and life assurance have also been identified within the research as areas of concern.

“In addition, some fishers find it difficult to establish and contribute to a personal pension plan, missing out on the tax efficiency and tax relief attached to this type of long-term saving. Government grants requiring an upfront financial contribution also created a barrier for those who did not have spare capital available and struggled to access a bank loan. We think this partnership is revolutionary and will provide a safety net and create financial resilience which will enable more fishing families to thrive.”

The Seafarers’ Charity grant funding to help Commsave Credit Union to support UK fishing families is the first pro-active, preventative initiative emerging from the charity’s new strategy, Thrive, which aims to enhance the financial resilience of all seafarers. Other strategic outcomes include funding support for better working lives, raised safety standards, improved health and wellbeing, and increasing social justice for seafarers.

The fishing industry has faced unprecedented challenges with Covid-19 impacting sales to domestic and overseas hospitality, followed swiftly by the need to adjust to new export regulations arising from our trading relationship with Europe post Brexit. 

The Fishing Without a Safety Net report highlighted how economic necessity drives fishers out to sea even when seas are at their most dangerous, and that many fishing families lack a financial safety net to fall back on when the weather, illness or repairs prevent them from going to sea.

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