New help offered to ‘unbanked’ islanders
ISLANDERS unable to obtain high street banking services could benefit from a new organisation aiming to tackle the ‘serious social issue’ of financial exclusion.
Guernsey Community Savings will offer to arrange access to basic banking services for the financially excluded.
The initiative is the brainchild of Peter Neville after two years of work to secure support and funding.
His research has shown that more than 100 islanders a year are likely to find themselves in the position of being ‘unbanked’.
‘The problem of the unbanked in Guernsey – typically former prisoners and others in difficult personal circumstances – is a serious social issue,’ said Mr Neville, a former director-general of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission.
Mr Neville said he was hoped that GCS would play a major part in helping people who founded themselves financially excluded.
Customers will be referred to GCS by community support agencies to re-establish themselves as full members of society.
‘Without having basic banking and payment facilities people can find it difficult or even impossible to get a job, secure accommodation, or even to keep their money safe,’ he said.
‘Given the chance most people in these situations will welcome the opportunity to regain a place in the community.
‘Guernsey has a responsibility not to exclude them, but instead to help and encourage them to return to mainstream society.
‘If excluded, there is a genuine risk that some will be denied accommodation and employment, risk getting into greater difficulties and possibly reoffending. This means a cost both to the individual and to the community.’
In formulating his idea, Mr Neville approached the high street banks in Guernsey. Although they provide basic banking services to such people in the UK, he said that they do not do so locally – hence the need for the new organisation.
‘We are very fortunate to have gathered the enthusiastic support of a number of senior figures in the financial, business and training areas.
‘Some of their companies are providing operational and support services free of charge. Others, including a number of the local banks and charitable bodies, are providing very generous financial support.
‘The company has been set up, the board is in place, and we are registered as a charity. The GFSC has been very encouraging and we are in the process of getting their final approval. The aim is to begin operations in the second quarter of this year.’
The operation will be small-scale with the GCS office opening on a part-time basis. However, customers will be able to access cash through bank cards and high street cash machines and make purchases either online or by using their card.
An important feature of GCS’ services will be the provision of budgeting advice and guidance. Customers will be encouraged to save, while small loans may be available to help overcome crises.
GCS is now looking to recruit two members of staff to help set up operations - a general manager and a financial controller. Both will be remunerated, part-time roles and could be suited to people looking to move into semi-retirement, said Mr Neville.
GCS will also be looking for unpaid volunteers to act as customer relationship officers, administrators and money-skills trainers.
Information on all the positions is available on the GCS website: www.mimoney.gg. The website contains a link for anyone interested in applying or learning more. Further information can also be obtained by contacting Peter Neville at Peter.Neville@gcs.gg.