THE Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed for more donations for the next phase of his campaign on personal finances.
His Mustard Seed Appeal, which has been running over the summer, will help the Just Finance Foundation roll out its programmes to 30 dioceses.
The Foundation, part of the Archbishop’s so-called “war on Wonga”, oversees projects, which include Lifesavers — financial education for schools — and the Church Credit Champions Network — church volunteers who promote credit unions and help struggling debtors (News, 30 May 2014). In the first two pilot schemes, in London and Liverpool, 250 volunteers from 200 churches were enrolled. They helped to recruit 2500 new members for credit unions.
In an online video, Archbishop Welby said: “Almost everybody at some point is dealing with credit and debt. The knock-on effect is so destructive. People’s lives are torn apart; their families are damaged. We have to challenge the sovereignty of money and finance over every aspect of our life — to say in a quite revolutionary way: ‘No, you’re not in charge.’”
The Church Urban Fund (CUF), which is running the Just Finance Foundation, said that in two years the pilot network had generated £2.2 million in “social value”. With money raised from the appeal, the network could be expanded to 30 dioceses, and train 6000 volunteers. It aims to benefit 2.5 million people.
Canon Paul Hackwood, the executive chair of the CUF, said: “The Archbishop has planted a seed. He’s done it courageously, and with a lot of personal commitment. We are asking people to grow that seed, because it’s only by growing it that we can harvest transformed lives and a changed financial system.”
A spokesman for the CUF said: “The Church is stepping it up to meet demand after it was today announced that the first six months of 2016 saw a total of 313,679 people contact StepChange to receive debt advice, the most ever.”
StepChange, a debt counselling charity, reported that between January and June this year a record number of people contacted it for help. The total of 313,679 reflects an increase of 11 per cent from 2015. On average, the clients owe £13,826 in unsecured debt, spread over 5.7 debts.
A separate survey, by National Debtline and the Money Advice Trust, of 2000 18-to-24-year-olds found that 37 per cent had some kind of debt, excluding mortgages and student loans. More than half said that they regularly worried about money, one third said their debts were a “heavy burden”, and one in five reported losing sleep.
The CUF spokesman said: “This is a part of a wider reality of eight million people in the UK who are in financial distress because of problem debt, lack of savings, and poor financial education.”