YEP Says, March 12: Power of a union delivers progress on tackling loan sharks

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Rise of mutuals offers alternative to unscrupulous lenders.

THE problem with loan sharks – and the reason why they have been so difficult to stamp out – is that there has always been a market for their services.

Many people struggling to cover living costs and sustain family life on squeezed budgets feel they have nowhere to turn when they need to borrow money – particularly if they have a poor credit rating.

It’s why real progress is only being made now that there is a concerted attempt in Leeds to widen the role and membership of the city’s credit unions.

These mutual financial co-operatives take deposits and give loans to their members and offer a genuine solution to the problem of hard-up people falling into the clutches of high-cost credit companies, such as doorstep lenders and payday loan firms.

But there’s more work to do. While membership of Leeds’s credit unions has reached an unprecedented 27,000 people since the launch of a citywide drive last year, the council is now trying to make sure that they are seen as a realistic and credible alternative to an easily available, high-interest loan.

It’s also a positive step that the Government seems to recognise the important role they play. Last year it handed the country’s credit unions £38m to help them take on expensive payday lenders.

Again it’s a start. But if such lenders are to be driven out of business in the long-term, the Government also needs to do more to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Skills shortage risks a lost generation

THERE is a misconception that young people who are not in education, employment or training are happy spending their days doing nothing.

In fact, a new report shows many suffer from a lack of confidence and are up to three times more likely to suffer from depression.

Leeds is striving to become a NEET-free city, but the challenge is made more difficult by cuts in funding for schools and colleges which mean fewer places, along with a general shortage of job-ready skills.

More traineeships and apprenticeships need to be created if we’re to avoid a generation of youngsters who are not just unemployed but unemployable.

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