Nelson McCausland wants 'People's Bank' to end loan sharking
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland hopes to create a 'People's Bank' to break the hold of paramilitary loan sharks and pay day loan companies on struggling families across Northern Ireland.
Mr McCausland floated the plan in an address to the DUP conference yesterday.
The minister told his party that the grip of the loan sharks was spreading beyond the cities and threatening all of Northern Ireland.
"We have to do something which tackles the issue of affordable credit being inaccessible, in particular for families for whom the traditional banks have nothing to offer. That is the only way we will stop paramilitary organisations and pay day loan companies preying on these families," he said.
He said his department was looking at creating the People's Bank through a partnership with both credit unions and housing associations.
He pointed out that only 7% of credit unions saw "serving members who are financially excluded or living on welfare benefits" as their primary purpose, and that "only 4% of NIHE tenants have a credit union account".
He told delegates: "I am about to take forward a piece of work which would examine the potential for establishing a Government-backed 'People's Bank' scheme which could provide more affordable credit to financially excluded households, households which are even out of the reach of credit unions.
"I believe that some of our local housing associations would be ideally placed to partner."