Chris Smith asks an important question about the nature and purpose of credit unions: do they alleviate poverty? Is that what they are for? First, Chris asks Dr Paul A Jones, Director at CFCFE and Head of the Research Unit for Financial Inclusion at CFCFE’s partner, Liverpool John Moores University for an overview to open the discussion. Then Eileen Halligan, CEO at CFCFE member Central Liverpool Credit Union in Britain, and Des Morrisey, former CEO of Tallaght West Credit Union in Ireland, offer practitioner perspectives. Eileen records the importance of the credit union as a response to 1980s unemployment in Liverpool, and Des suggests how the historic credit union role in addressing poverty may need to change in a society where there are many more credit providers for formerly under-served people. Consistent themes are the importance of financial education (see CFCFE research here), the value of the save-as-you-borrow model to low income members and the role of credit in enabling participation in modern society.

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