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.
Who are Conduit?
Conduit is the trading name of Five Lamps. Five Lamps was established as a social enterprise in 1985 and has been a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) since 2004. While they currently operate in other areas of the UK, this is their first Scottish venture.
A CDFI offers loans to people who would be excluded from borrowing from mainstream finance providers such as banks.
It is an alternative to high-cost, short-term lenders such as ‘payday loan’ providers or ‘loan sharks’.
Conduit also provides help on budgeting, savings, debt management and how to maximise income. This support is available for as long as needed, including before, during and beyond the course of a loan.
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. 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 are willing to lend.
Who else is involved?
In Fife Citizens Advice and Rights Fife, Jobcentre Plus, Fife Gingerbread, Fife’s credit unions and different organisations provide advice and services that are tailored to individual customer needs.
The three Consortium Local Authorities follow very strict policies for data protection and confidentiality to ensure that customer information is handled properly and sensitively.
Are the ‘branches’ like a bank?
Four shops opened in 2017 – two in Fife, the Head Office in Dunfermline, a shop in Kirkcaldy, one in Falkirk and one in Bathgate for a face-to-face service. Opening hours are 10am-4pm Monday to Friday.
The shops have desks for support agencies and partners so customers can chat and receive advice:
Dunfermline (Head Office)
31 Chapel Street, Dunfermline, KY12 7AW
Just beside Tesco and the bus station on Chapel Street
13 Bank Street, Falkirk, FK1 1NB
Across the road from Wetherspoons; closest train station is Falkirk Grahamston
34 High Street, Kirkcaldy, KY1 1LU
Right on the High Street
79 South Bridge, Bathgate, EH48 1TJ
Close to the Bathgate Partnership Centre
Customers are also able to apply online and over the phone.
What does this 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.
Conduit Scotland is for people who are not currently eligible to apply for a loan through their local credit union.
The customer support provided includes ways to build financial resilience – day to day budgeting, building savings and being able to cope with unexpected costs – and the local credit union forms a very important ‘next step’ for people working to manage their finances.
Who holds the money?
Fife Lamps holds the cash for the loans. Each council has contributed to the service. During this first year of operation we also have staff to help promote the service and measure its impact on residents.
Just how affordable is it?
This loan illustration from Conduit Scotland shows the difference in terms, and loan interest, between loans 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.
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.
How can I find out more?
You can contact the Conduit Scotland contract manager Stephanie: