Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Finance
First of all, I wish to inform the Deputy that both I and my officials have engaged extensively with the credit union representative bodies, and with credit unions themselves since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist the sector in its efforts to support local communities and to support credit unions experiencing challenges as a result of the pandemic.
I spoke with the credit union representative bodies, by conference call on 23 March 2020 and again on 22 April 2020 to discuss the challenges and emerging issues facing the credit union sector as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. I welcomed the ongoing work of the credit union sector to support members in difficulties due to COVID-19 and acknowledged the health and safety risk front line staff are facing every day to ensure continuity of services to members. I noted the vital work the credit union sector is carrying out, which builds on the government’s call for solidarity and community spirit which is synonymous with credit unions.
In addition to the above, my officials have had weekly calls with the credit union representative bodies and weekly engagement sessions with the Registry of Credit Unions in the Central Bank to review any emerging issues in the sector resulting from the pandemic, and to ensure smooth information flow between the sector and Government. The Credit Union Advisory Committee (CUAC) is also meeting weekly.
I recognise the key role that credit unions play in the delivery of financial services in local communities across Ireland, the need for which is heightened at this time. Credit unions account for about 4 per cent of lending to households and non-financial corporations from banks and credit unions and represent approximately one third of the consumer credit market. Credit unions are well positioned to provide access to credit to support the recovery from the current crisis.
The economic outlook arising by virtue of COVID-19 presents an unwelcome challenge to the sector, particularly the reduced demand for new lending. As a result it was agreed that the CUAC would report to me by 30 June on challenges and opportunities for the sector, incorporating implications of COVID-19, the role credit unions could play in the economic recovery and any relevant recommendations.