Across the Pond: UK CDFIs in the Spotlight During Lockdown

The Guardian
Sunday, February 28, 2021

Kathryn Smart was struggling to make ends meet at the start of England's latest lockdown. The 45-year-old usually earns £1,100 a month working at a debt collection agency in Sunderland, but reduced her hours to help home-school her six-year-old son. Smart needed money to tide her family over, but knew she would not qualify for a mainstream loan. A bad experience with payday lenders several years ago left her with £3,000 worth of debt and a poor credit score. With a contentious county court judgment (CCJ) also on her file, she Googled “loans offered to borrowers with CCJs” and found Fair Finance, one of the UK’s 50 community development finance institutions (CDFIs). While the not-for-profit cooperatives have existed in the UK for 20 years, they are little-known outside their customer base. “I first thought they were a payday lender,” says Smart. “I didn’t know they were a responsible finance company until I had done a bit more research.”