Fife Council has joined forces with Falkirk and West Lothian councils – and the support services in each area – to provide borrowing and support to residents who find it hard to access affordable credit. 

Conduit Scotland offers loans to people who would be excluded from borrowing from mainstream providers such as banks.

 

Two Conduit Scotland branches will open in Fife in August 2017 – at Chapel Street Dunfermline and on Kirkcaldy High Street.

 

What is Conduit Scotland?

Conduit Scotland is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).

It is an alternative to high-cost, short-term lenders such as ‘payday loan’ providers or ‘loan sharks’.

Support is at the heart of the service. A number of local organisations provide help on budgeting, savings, debt management and how to maximise income – tailored to a person’s individual circumstances. This support is available for as long as needed, including before, during and beyond the course of a loan.

Conduit Scotland is a trading name of Five Lamps, which has been jointly contracted by Fife, Falkirk and West Lothian councils to provide the borrowing part of the service.

Five Lamps was established as a social enterprise in 1985 and has been a CDFI since 2004. It currently operates in other areas of the UK.

 

Who is it for?

This service is for residents on lower incomes with no record of savings and who have an extremely poor or no credit rating. They may be hard for services to reach and may not seek advice, but may be vulnerable and need support to help manage day to day.

Where some people have used short-term loans in the past, recent changes in financial regulations mean they may no longer be eligible for loans from other providers.

The average income of those borrowing is also on the increase. This means that more people are in need of credit, but fewer ‘mainstream’ providers such as banks or credit unions are willing to lend.

 

Who else is involved?

In Fife, Conduit Scotland works with Citizens Advice and Rights Fife, Jobcentre PlusFife Gingerbread, the Scottish Welfare Fund, Fife’s credit unions and other relevant organisations to provide advice and services that are tailored to individual customer needs.

Staff use the FORT (Fife Online Referral Tracking) system to securely refer customer details on to support services. They follow strict policies for data protection and confidentiality to ensure that information is handled properly.

 

Are there ‘branches’ like a bank?

Four shops will open during August 2017 – one on the High Street, Kirkcaldy, one in Chapel Street Dunfermline, one in Falkirk and one in Bathgate.

Opening hours will be 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday, and 9am – 12noon on Saturday.

These shops have desks for support agencies and partners so customers can chat and receive advice.

Customers can also apply online and over the phone. The phone line is open from 8.30am – 5pm Monday to Friday.

‘Pop-up’ branches in other areas of Fife will also be put in place depending on need. The ‘pop-ups’ will give more information on Conduit Scotland and local support and, depending on location, will be able to handle loan applications.

 

What does it mean for credit unions?

Credit unions remain very important services in Fife, West Lothian and Falkirk. They provide accessible savings, low cost loans and help to educate members to manage their money more effectively.

They are also important to the local economy because they recycle income to benefit the wider community.

This new service is for people who are not currently eligible to apply for a loan through their local credit union.

The customer support provided by Conduit Scotland – in addition to the advice already available through our local support agencies – includes ways to build financial resilience: day to day budgeting, building savings and being able to cope with unexpected costs.

A local credit union forms a very important ‘next step’ for people working to manage their finances so Conduit Scotland will refer people to their local credit union where appropriate.

 

Who holds the money?

Conduit Scotland holds the cash for the loans. Fife, Falkirk and West Lothian councils have contributed to the service. We also have staff who are based in Scotland’s Improvement Service to help promote the service and measure its impact on residents over its first year of operation.

 

How affordable is it? 

This loan illustration shows the difference in terms, and loan interest, between a loan through this service compared to other lenders.

 

How do customers apply for a loan?

Customers are able to apply online, by phone, or in person – and will be offered advice at this point.

Loan amounts can range from £50 to £1000. A repayment period of 6-9 months is normally offered.

The application asks for personal details, income and expenditure.

Once assessed, customers will receive their decision by email, telephone or text.

If approved in principle, customers will have to electronically sign loan documents, and may have to send some additional evidence to support the application.

Once this has been assessed, when a loan is offered an email will be sent to the customer.

Funds are transferred in to a bank account, which usually takes up to three working days depending on the bank.

 

Conduit Scotland does not issue loans to:

  • Those under 18 years of age
  • To anyone who’s bank account does not accept direct debits
  • To anyone who is currently bankrupt or subject to a Protected Trust Deed or debt arrangement scheme

Conduit Scotland will refer customers in financial crisis to the appropriate service.

For more details on the services available, email stephanieplotnikoff@conduit.org.uk