Bradford Council: Bradford District Credit Union

The initiative

Bradford District Credit Union has received international acclaim for its partnership work in Bradford. Started by Bradford Council in 1993, the credit union has just over 9,000 members and is recognised as the first ‘Community Development Credit Union’ (CDCU) in the UK.

The credit union has been working closely with Bradford Council to co-design a number of initiatives aimed to support residents with the rising cost of living.

Bradford Council ‘Health and Wellbeing’ department funds the Financial Inclusion Officer who is employed by the Bradford Credit Union to provide workshops and information to help people learn to budget, save, and borrow safely and ethically.  The officer also supports collaboration between the two organisations and feeds into joint initiatives.

One of these projects is FoodSavers, a new partnership between Bradford District, Inn Churches, and BDCU, that aims to reduce dependency on foodbanks by combining access to healthy food, with saving money and building financial resilience.

There are 10 Food Savers pantries across Bradford, where people can shop in a welcoming environment and choose from a wide selection of fresh and store-cupboard foods, toiletries, and household cleaning products.  Residents typically pay a membership fee of £5 for a large bag of shopping and if they choose to join the Credit Union, then £1 of their membership fee goes into their savings account, every time they shop. The scheme is part funded by Bradford Council and is open to all Bradford District residents.

Demand for the scheme has been high and currently 255 people regularly shop in the pantries, with 45 per cent having a newly opened Credit Union account. Being a member of Bradford District Credit Union comes with many other benefits, including the option to access low-cost, safe credit in times of need. This could help in preventing residents with higher than average credit scores turning to high-cost credit, and potentially loan sharks when faced with unexpected costs or bills.

 Customers say that they value the chance to choose what produce they really want and welcome the dignity of knowing that they are paying for their shopping. For some customers, joining the scheme has allowed them to save money for the first time.  

In recognition of the current cost of living pressures, FoodSavers are planning to open several new outlets in the coming months to allow even more lower-income households in Bradford access to the scheme.