Guest blog: Supporting our sector to support the most vulnerable

Article by Andrew Craddock, Chief Executive, Darlington Building Society. First published in Society Matters magazine.

By Andrew Craddock, Chief Executive, Darlington Building Society. First published in the Autumn edition of Society Matters magazine.

Credit unions provide some of the most vulnerable people in our community with a crucial lifeline. Like many businesses, Darlington Credit Union (DCU) saw their growth plans unceremoniously halted in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a neighbouring mutual, we’ve extended a lifeline to enable this vital community service to continue providing financial support to those who need it most.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the huge positive impact that can be made by supporting those around us. As a sector, we supported our members, our colleagues and our communities through some of the most challenging times in living memory - and we continue to do so.

But what about local businesses? I doubt there’s a single business in the country that hasn’t been impacted by the lockdowns, the societal shifts and the behavioural changes brought about by the pandemic.

Some were hit harder than others. When one of our neighbours and fellow mutual, Darlington Credit Union  (DCU), shared their plight I knew that stepping in was the right thing to do.

Darlington Building Society approached Darlington Borough Council and together we provided a support package to help bolster DCU’s services and help sustain its growth plans. We are also extending expertise from our colleagues on a voluntary basis – something we are familiar with facilitating, as we regularly volunteer services with local good causes through our Community Impact Strategy.

With the cost of living crisis only set to intensify over the coming months and years, a robust and varied financial services market will be essential to serve the masses, as well as the underserved (which is, as we well know, where our sector thrives). Credit unions play a vital role in this infrastructure and are an essential staple on our high streets. Their services will be needed more than ever.

Supporting DCU to be able to offer their services to more customers was, therefore, an uncomplicated decision to make. DCU’s inspirational expansion plans set out exactly how they will directly and positively affect savers and borrowers.

I am thrilled that we get to help DCU deliver its innovative growth strategy, so that more people in our region can access the financial services they need. But it’s much bigger than just our region.

It is about pulling together as mutuals, and as neighbours, to preserve and extend these significant facilities that can only be delivered through a diverse financial services sector.

The pandemic may be over, but its effects will be felt for years to come. It’s our responsibility as robust businesses - as key players on our high streets - to support how we can, where we can, for brighter financial futures all round.

For more information: Read more about Darlington Building Society's Community Impact Strategy here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within guest blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the BSA.