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Ask the expert: Looking after your finances

In our Ask the Expert series, we ask experts how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting their services, and how they’re adapting to support their communities.

This week’s guest interviewee is Steve Barras, Business Development Officer at Just Credit Union, Shropshire’s Community Bank.

We asked Steve about the impact of COVID-19, and how people can continue to access support.

What sort of impact is COVID-19 having on personal finances?

Many people are understandably very worried about their financial security. Personal finance has become one of the most important issues, with furlough, reductions in salary and redundancy impacting most of the UK workforce.

Recent research showed that more than two-thirds of consumers feel that their personal finances are a higher priority now than it was before the outbreak. Just under half of those surveyed felt that their personal finances were worse as a result of COVID-19.

Many consumers have had to change their financial plans - particularly those who have lower credit scores, are responsible for children, or are private renters. Budgeting, and reducing expenses and bills, has become the priority for personal finance plans.

Here at Just Credit Union we are seeing a significant reduction in loans for discretionary purchases like holidays, and an increase in loans for non-discretionary purposes like the urgent replacement of broken white goods.

We are also seeing an increase in new savings account inquires. With people paying more attention to their financial position and reducing their expenditure, some are therefore starting to build small savings nest eggs to prepare themselves in case their financial situation deteriorates.

How are Just Credit Union adapting to support people through this testing time?

We have had to change the way we operate in order to continue to deliver our valued services to Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, whilst keeping our team safe.

We had already made some significant investments in new technology and systems, and this has provided a platform from which we can continue to provide affordable loans, secure savings, and members can continue to access their savings.

We were able to very quickly move the team to home working whilst maintaining telephone and email support, introducing new means of contacting us by text message and allowing people to apply online for membership and loans. Doing so online also means that people can sign for their loan digitally, and there is no need to physically come along to an office.

We have also introduced a new preferential rate loan for all keyworkers to support them as they continue to work hard for us during such a challenging time.

Over the coming weeks we will be rolling out new ways for members to communicate with us an access information about their account. However, a personal service is still key to all we do, and we are still here to help.

What advice would you give to people worried about their finances?

Many people are facing new challenges with their finances, and it may seem at times as it their problems are unsolvable.

But every day we are seeing new solutions being introduced by government, communities, and from businesses.

Try to stay up to speed with these developments, and access all the help that is relevant to you.

It is also important that households access all of the benefits that they are eligible for. There are several online benefit calculators, which are a great starting place.

Have a close look at your income and expenditure, see if there is any means by which they can increase their household income and/or reduce their expenditure. Sometimes people have unused subscriptions, and some utilities providers are offering lower cost options to help reduce bills.

If you are worried about debt - whether that is from personal loans, car loans or credit cards – check with your provider. All loan providers are required to offer arrangements to help their customers through this challenging time, which may include arranging a repayment hold. It is important, however, to talk directly to the provider to formally put the arrangements in place.

Finally, be careful. In the current circumstances it may be tempting to take an unregulated loan to fulfil a short-term need. What may appear initially as helpful will very rapidly spiral into a much worse situation. If you, or someone you know, has borrowed from an unregulated lender or loan shark - confidential help is available at or 0300 555 2222.

The Just Credit Union Facebook page and the News section of the website are kept up to date with the latest information on their services and how they are being delivered, and with useful tips and advice.

If you have a loan with Just Credit Union, and are worried about repayments, contact the team to discuss your situation on 01743 252325, or by email on (being sure to include a contact telephone number.)

Wrekin customers can also refer to our Frequently Asked Questions or contact our Money Matters team via email or telephine 01952 217234.

21st May 2020