Creative Credit: A Creative Way to Financial Health

1 Feb 2017 By Chris Standish

Chris Standish is Head of Regeneration and Place at the Regenda Group, a forward thinking housing business responsible for around 13,000 properties across the North West. In this guest blog, Chris describes Regenda’s creative approach to financial health.

Creative Credit is an approach that uses drama and the arts to bring to life a wide range of financial inclusion issues. Through engaging children and their parents in a creative way, they are supported in developing their own strategies to manage very personal and difficult financial issues. In this way, Creative Credit grants people an opportunity to progress on their journey towards good financial health.

Creative Credit was established in Oldham in 2015. It followed a successful anti-loan shark pilot project, established by Regenda’s Regeneration Team in Limehurst Village, an area of Oldham that is the focus of a long-term people and place based regeneration initiative. Talking with residents, local schools, the Council and our own internal teams it became clear that the area was being targeted by loan sharks. The impacts included growing rent arrears, increasing personal debt and incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour, besides huge personal stress and anxiety for those affected.

Having identified the issue we brought together local partners to agree on an approach. Central to this was effective engagement with those most affected or  at risk. We decided to bring Oldham Coliseum Theatre into the project. They worked to help pupils understand more about loan sharks and brought the issues to life via a play in front of parents, attended by Money Advice officers from Regenda and the local Oldham Credit Union. The response from parents, teachers and partners was overwhelming – this way of engaging people was hugely successful.

Since then Creative Credit has expanded and evolved. In 2016 a new project was established. Targeting four key Wards across Oldham, the project focused on three locally critical issues;

  • Loan sharks and door-step lending
  • Young persons’ budgeting
  • Universal Credit

With support secured from the Oldham Housing Investment Partnership and its members, Oldham Council, Greater Manchester Police and the Illegal Money Lending Team, the project engaged with 670 residents, pupils and parents over a 7 month period. Coordinated by Regenda, Oldham Coliseum created a bespoke engagement programme to maximise impact and learning outcomes. The feedback from those engaged has been significant and testimonies from many of those engaged indicate that they are more empowered to take positive action on these issues than before.

Creative Credit2 has followed on from these previous versions. Starting in late 2016, this project involves six local schools in Oldham, five primary and one secondary, via the local Oasis Academy Trust. It aims to help pupils and families to become more financially responsible – aware of the need to manage their money more effectively and be aware of the risks and pitfalls of unsustainable borrowing. The project employs a part time Creative Credit Officer, working in the schools and the partner agencies to maximise impact and synergy. Engaging pupils in developing and starring in drama based productions is the key tool being facilitated by the Coliseum outreach workers. The project will run until summer 2017.

Creative Credit is now being rolled out across the North West. Inception meetings with partners in Fleetwood are underway and we have been asked to meet with new partners in Blackpool to discuss how Creative Credit (Blackpool) could work.

The model is there and it is transferable and adaptable to meet specific local needs. It works particularly well as part of wider neighbourhood regeneration approaches. Getting it right requires coordinating effective local partnerships in order to get funding, creative engagement and finding the right delivery partner to meet local needs. Effective monitoring and evaluation is also crucial – Regenda have developed a simple but effective monitoring and evaluation tool that can be adapted to suit each project.

It is vital that local partnerships are proactive about these issues. Giving people the tools to become financially healthy is good for the individual, but the impacts are felt across the whole community. Housing associations in particular can be key local drivers of change, as they work within the communities they serve every day.

The key challenge is for this type of approach to become part of the fabric of national and local policy. We need awareness and commitment from leaders and decision makers who can bring this type of approach into the mainstream.

If you want to know more about Creative Credit and the impact it is having, please get in touch with Chris at chris.standish@regenda.org.uk