Bishop joins credit union [Photo]

Bishop Christopher Foster outside his local credit union

The Bishop of Portsmouth has shown his support for the Archbishop of Canterbury's campaign against unscrupulous loan companies by joining a credit union.

Bishop Christopher Foster and diocesan social responsibility adviser Canon Nick Ralph have joined Hampshire Credit Union, which operates throughout the Diocese of Portsmouth and has launched a new loan to compete with payday loan firms.

The bishop is just one of many in the Church of England who are marking International Credit Union Day on Thursday by joining their local credit union.

Bishop Foster said: "It's great that the diocese is responding to the archbishop's challenge. Expensive loans can be a crippling burden to many in our communities. I hope church communities can be local places of access to the services of the credit union, which I'm delighted to be a member of."

Canon Ralph said: "Justin Welby importantly pointed out the scandal of companies that offer payday loans online at the click of a button, and then charge huge amounts of interest on those loans. Our clergy know of people who have been caught in that trap and ended up owing vast amounts of money. Meanwhile there are 500 non-profit credit unions around the country, which can help. They just need to be more accessible and better known to those who really need them.

"We'll be making sure our clergy know about the Hampshire Credit Union, which also works in the Isle of Wight, and other organisations that can offer debt counselling or help with financial management. Then when worshippers meet people who are in a desperate financial situation, they'll know how to advise them.

"We'd also like to find volunteers from our parishes - and church schools and other denominations - who can act as collectors in their local communities and potentially as trained mentors. Justin Welby said it could take decades, but that a network based on churches could be more professional and more engaged with communities than a firm such as Wonga.

"We also want to campaign against loan sharks and illegal doorstep lenders, as well as call for proper regulation of payday loans. Campaigning against this kind of social injustice is a core part of our Christian calling."