Project Highlight: The Centre for Theology and Community
The Centre for Theology & Community received a grant from Together in Service to support their Just Money campaign in Lambeth, which works to help alleviate financial difficulties and encourage responsible lending. In addition to their Money Talk and Money Walk events in the local community, they’ve been putting pressure on a local ‘payday lender’ known as Speedy Cash regarding its marketing practices.
David, Faith in Public Life Officer at the Centre let us know their progress.
December saw the first multi-faith money action in Lambeth on money issues, which was organised in response to the local payday lender Speedy Cash offering a ‘refer-a-friend’ scheme, in which they give people £20 as a ‘reward’ for getting a friend or family member to take out a payday loan. On the 15th December at 6pm, over 50 community leaders from Anglican, Methodist, Catholic and Pentecostal churches, as well as members of the local Synagogue and Mosque, gathered together to take action.
After an initial briefing, we all wore Santa hats and gathered outside the Speedy Cash shop to sing some slightly-altered Christmas Carols:
Good tidings we bring,
To you and your kin,
We won’t get our friends into debt,
So keep your £20
Then a small delegation of leaders, including one dressed as Father Christmas, entered the shop and delivered a bag of coal along with a letter requesting a meeting with the Director of Speedy Cash, Michael Charles, to discuss their marketing practices.
We then left Speedy Cash and marched toward Brixton station where we gave out leaflets for the credit union. The final stop was the credit union itself, where we pulled party poppers and presented them with sweets to thank them for serving the community with fair financial products.
On the 26th December, we received a reply from the Chief Operating Officer of Speedy Cash, Micheal Charles who was very keen to meet us in January.
I attended a “House meeting” with the Methodist church regarding doing Money Talks in their churches. They were all really interested and invited me to present this to their main circuit meeting in February. I also had a meeting with the credit union and Lambeth council to discuss a mass credit union sign in Lambeth in March or May.
We had our negotiation meeting with the COO of Speedy Cash, Micheal Charles. The negotiation team was multi-faith, including members from the Hyderi Islamic Centre, South London Liberal Synagogue, Corpus Christi, and St Matthews church.
We had three main asks of Mr Charles. The first was to stop the refer-a-friend scheme. The second was to stop targeting vulnerable people by using slogans like “You are not aloan”. The final ask was around marketing targeting children (e.g. using kids’ colouring pictures and balloons).
The COO of Speedy Cash did not agree to stopping the refer-a-friend scheme without evidence of harm it causes to people. So he suggested that we meet again in March with testimonies and research, and he will bring the CEO and CFO to the next meeting. Mr Charles also said he would review the practices around slogans and vulnerable people, as he could see how an elderly and lonely person could be taken in by the current slogan. Lastly, the COO made a commitment that they will no longer be using their kangaroo mascot as part of their marketing. We are now planning to do an audit of Speedy Cash shops to make sure that they live up to all of their commitments.