‘Three Small Changes’ Campaign Launched to Improve Access to Financial Services for Travellers
The National Traveller MABS campaign aimed at improving Travellers access to financial services was launched on September 28th 2015. The campaign, ‘Three Small Changes’ uses real-life stories to showcase positive steps Travellers and service-providers can take to promote better money management.
As part of the ‘Three Small Changes’ campaign – which was developed by leading design agency Red Dog – National Traveller MABS has produced a number of short films, featuring contributions from Travellers throughout Ireland, and which are now available on our Youtube channel.
Nineteen-year-old Marie Joyce from Cavan is featured in one of the videos, ‘Get Saving’, which aims to promote a savings culture amongst young Travellers.
“The three small changes that I would suggest to people are, firstly, go into your local credit union and check what documents you need. Secondly, get them together. And, thirdly, get into a routine and save regularly, even if it’s only a small amount,” she said.
At the campaign launch, we highlighted the challenges faced by Travellers in accessing mainstream financial services, and called on government to implement a number of measures to tackle financial exclusion amongst low-income groups.
Travellers and many other marginalised groups find it difficult to access financial institutions such as banks and credit unions for a number of reasons, including a lack of the required forms of identification, a lack of income exceeding a certain monthly level, and – in some cases – numeracy and literacy issues.
Not having a bank account makes it difficult to save in a secure manner, so it becomes difficult to financially plan for things such as back-to-school costs, weddings, health-related costs and so on. As a result, borrowing from moneylenders is often the only way for people who are financially excluded to access credit. This can drive them further into debt, as moneylenders charge far higher interest rates than banks or credit unions.
To tackle financial exclusion, National Traveller MABS is calling on government to establish a nationwide, State-funded personal micro-lending scheme, whereby the financially excluded and those on low incomes could access credit easily. According to National Traveller MABS, such a scheme should:
- Provide credit through trusted sources such as credit unions.
- Have an easily accessible application process.
- Have a strategic focus, and engage with money management support services such as MABS.
- Include a saving option, thereby providing a pathway to future credit.
- Provide for repayment deduction at source (subject to protected income considerations and individual choice).
The organisation is also calling for greater consistency in relation to the provision of caravan loans by local authorities. While all local authorities are empowered to provide loans to Travellers who live on halting sites for the purchase or upgrading of caravans, very few are currently doing so, according to National Traveller MABS.
Recent research indicates that only about one-fifth of local authorities currently provide caravan loans. National Traveller MABS wants to see national government insisting on the provision of these loans in all local authority areas. We also want local authorities to put in place transparent systems for assessing tenants for loans, providing loans, and monitoring repayments. In addition, accessible methods of repayment should be provided to support people in repaying their loans.