Three UK credit unions have joined forces to make savings accounts and loans available to armed forces and families.
Following campaigning work from the Co-operative Party for an armed forces credit union, the government explored payroll deduction partnerships with credit unions and three credit unions part of Joining Forces are Plane Saver Credit Union, Police Credit Union and London Mutual Credit Union.
Launched on International Credit Union Day at the Royal British Legion in London, the Ministry of Defence-backed initiative means that armed forces personnel can save regularly or repay loans with a credit union through payroll deduction. Family members and retired personnel in receipt of a pension are also eligible to join.
Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry joined London Mutual Credit Union, as one of the first under the scheme. He said: “It is often difficult for people in the armed forces to gain access to financial services, especially those serving overseas who have little or no way of getting credit in the UK.”
The alliance’s launch follows a two-year campaign by the Co-operative Party, and its chair Gareth Thomas MP to convince the MoD to establish an armed forces credit union. Commenting on the launch, Mr Thomas said: “Today’s launch of Joining Forces is a huge step forward. I’m pleased that after our two-year long campaign, the Ministry of Defence has finally accepted the need for a credit union catering to the specific needs of armed forces personnel and their families, many of whom find it hard to secure services via ordinary high street banks.
“Particular thanks must go to the three credit unions who have worked together to deliver this new service and to take it forward. I and my colleagues in the Co-operative Party will continue to champion the continued growth of the vital credit union sector, working to ensure that everyone is able to access affordable, fair and ethical financial services at the heart of their community.”
Police Credit Union chief executive Peter Evans said: “The three credit unions are honoured to offer our services to armed forces personnel, and it is a great example of credit unions working co-operatively with each other and with the Ministry of Defence to deliver a service to the men and women of the armed forces.
“Joining a credit union gives military personnel access to regular savings and affordable credit with a financial services provider that understands their job and their lifestyle. Our credit unions can help them stay on top of their finances and steer clear of high cost lenders.”
Mark Lancaster, minister for defence personnel and veterans, said: “I’m delighted that credit union services will today be available to armed forces personnel. It is crucial that those service people who work so hard to keep Britain safe, both at home and abroad, can access easy and affordable ways to save and borrow. This helps to tackle an issue that has caused disadvantage and disappointment to some service members.”
Internationally, credit unions have a proven record of providing services to armed forces personnel. The largest credit union in the world, Navy Federal Credit Union, has offered savings, loans and a range of financial products to members of the United States armed forces and their families since 1933. Today, the credit union has around 5.7 million members across America and assets of $70 billion.
• For more details on the services being provided, visit: www.joiningforcescu.co.uk