Guernsey Community Savings (GCS), a charity that arranges basic banking services for Guernsey residents who have been unable to obtain accounts, has opened its premises in the Bordage and is taking on customers.
The project has been pursued by Peter Neville, Chairman of GCS, for the past four years.
Mr Neville, a former Director General of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, said he is delighted. “I am so proud of the team and grateful to all the donors and supporters who have made this possible. They have worked with us through the frustrating delays and technical challenges. Our premises are friendly and welcoming and now we can begin to help those who are financially excluded in Guernsey. This is so important, to encourage and help people take control of their lives, start building savings and become full members of the community.
“Our main donors, the Guernsey Community Foundation and Lloyds Bank Foundation for the Channel Islands, have been brilliant, as have all the other donors and supporters, large and small. VFX Financial, our principal partners in this initiative, have been superb. We have also been very encouraged by the welcome given by the GFSC to the development of fintech in the Island.
“Our aim is to help anyone who is financially excluded for whatever reason including former prisoners, those leaving care, people with debt problems, and those affected by relationship breakdown or other personal crises.
“As we take on our first customers and build the network of agencies referring customers to us it is becoming clear that we will need to review our initial assessment of demand. More agencies want to refer customers to us. Many of our customers have complex needs and helping them can be very time consuming. The economic and social consequences of the Covid pandemic have increased the numbers needing support, and changes within the banking system mean people are having to find other ways to access the financial system. As awareness grows of what GCS does, we are already receiving requests to extend its services.
“I support the recent call for government to introduce simpler and more effective processes for funding and working with the third sector. GCS has been innovative in our approach to helping the financially excluded. We look forward to government being innovative in their approach to the third sector. We would like to discuss working together to support those who are most risk during this period of economic challenge and recovery. A number of possible initiatives come to mind.”
GCS also announced that the Bailiff Mr Richard McMahon has agreed to become the charity’s Patron. Peter added: “I am thrilled that the Bailiff has agreed to become our Patron. It is a great honour for us and we are very grateful to him for undertaking the role.”
Speaking at the event at Les Cotils to mark the opening of GCS, Mary Herve of Guernsey Caring for Ex offenders said: “In this modern, digital age, which seems to be heading towards a cashless society, to be refused a bank account, for any reason at all, discriminates against some of the most vulnerable and pushes them further towards the margins of society. Their feelings of rejection and worthlessness are reinforced. Guernsey Community Savings is telling them they are valued and worth caring about.”
Andrew Ozanne, who in 2019 was awarded an OBE for his charity work in justice and healthcare, said: “Do not underestimate the significance of what Peter and his team have achieved in unlocking a secure banking facility for prisoners. It will remove one of the main anxieties as prisoners work through their lead up to release seeking employment and securing accommodation and adding to the common objective of reducing reoffending.”
John De Carteret, Prison Governor, said: “ I am absolutely delighted to see this service being delivered in Guernsey. It is vital for an individual to be able to access the banking system in order to do so many things that most people just take for granted. I think this has been a difficult restriction for so many ex-offenders that not only hinders them but their families and the wider economy. I know this has been a fantastic effort for all involved and I am very proud the prison has and will be able to assist going forward”.
William Mason, the Director General of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission said: ““We are delighted to see this venture designed to help some of the less fortunate in our community start and hope it fulfils an important role in meeting unmet needs”.
If you or someone you know could benefit from the services offered by GCS, please click here.