6. What steps his Department is taking to support access to lending from credit unions. (75989)
Since 2006, the Department has spent more than £100 million through its growth fund to encourage credit unions. In addition, since March this year, a further £11.8 million has been invested. The Department is now conducting a study into how best we can support credit unions and will report shortly.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his involvement with the all-party group on credit unions and his commitment to the cause. Jobcentre Plus is keen to work closely with credit unions, and we are currently piloting a scheme in Manchester and Newcastle in which jobcentres share office space to see whether they can assist credit unions at a local level.
The process of long-term saving through auto-enrolment in workplace pensions is imminent, but there has been a big growth in workplace coverage of occupational workplace individual savings accounts, which is an encouraging development. We are looking to see what more we can do to encourage that trend.
I declare an interest as one of the almost 3,000 members of the Bridgend Lifesavers credit union, which has loans of more than £500,000 but savings of £1 million and is keeping people out of the hands of doorstep loan sharks and the sadly growing numbers of pawnbrokers on our high streets. What can we do to ensure that people see credit unions, rather than doorstep loan sharks, as the way to save and borrow?
I welcome the hon. Lady’s endorsement of credit unions, and I am pleased to say that, last week, the House of Lords approved the legislative reform order that will pave the way for credit unions to expand. My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) asked about the difference between the USA and the UK. One of those differences is that many of our credit unions are small and have not been able to stand on their own two feet and become viable. We are determined to enable them to become viable so that they can perform the functions that she set out.