The promotion of economic and social inclusion has been at the heart of all EDS’s activities for over 25 years. Through our work with the long term unemployed and social enterprise businesses it is also clear that access to finance, whether it is for personal or business loans, is severely restricted for those who live or businesses that are based in deprived communities often leaving them at the mercy of ‘door step’ lenders and loan sharks. So in parallel with EDS’s work to encourage economic and social inclusion, over the past decade EDS has developed a series of community based initiatives and organisation whose role is to promote financial inclusion. The two examples below illustrate our experience in this area:
With financial support from Preston City Council and AvenCentral SRB Partnership in 2002/3 LCDA/EDS undertook research into the feasibility of establishing a community-based loan business for financially excluded residents of Inner Preston. The resultant Preston Community Reinvestment Fund (CRIF) Study demonstrated the vulnerability of Inner City residents to loan sharks and “doorstep” money lenders and recommended the establishment of a CRIF in 2003. After a year of fundraising during which EDS secured capital and revenue funds from Central Government (DWP’s Phoenix Fund and SRB), the European Union (ERDF) and Barclays Bank, Preston CRIF was launched as an independent company, Preston MoneyLine, in April 2004.
The Company which is a not-for-profit charitable trust whose Board is drawn from the local community provides non-secured personal, housing improvement and business loans as well as a range of Sharia principled loans. Although initially confined to Inner Preston, the Company has been encouraged to expand its activities by the Government to West and North Lancashire and the Fylde Coast. In recognition of its expanding remit Preston MoneyLine changed its name to Lancashire Community Finance in 2009. EDS continues to provide support to the Company at an operational and Board level.
In 2002/3 LCDA/EDS was commissioned by the EU Directorate for Regional Development to investigate the feasibility of establishing a micro finance business loan scheme in a deprived neighbourhood in Liverpool with a history of financial exclusion. This transnational project examined good practice in Italy and Spain and resulted in the establishment of a pilot business loan fund in the Netherly and Valley Wards of South Liverpool – an area where fledgling businesses traditionally encountered problems accessing investment capital from main stream institutions. As a result of the scheme loans of up to £10,000 were invested in fifteen start-up business, nine of which are still operational today. The results of this pilot helped to inform the EU approach to micro finance in subsequent Programmes.