It’s probably no surprise that recent data from some of the big banks has revealed that half of us in the UK have less than £100 in savings and would face financial hardship if we received a large unexpected bill. It is the same story here in County Durham; we simply do not consider the importance of having money set aside. Whilst today the idea of saving seems like an old idea, the use of debt as a financial safety net has become the new norm, but there are some parts of Durham that are bucking the trend. Because of the work the Council and the Credit Union are doing together, people are now starting to take the idea of putting aside money each month more seriously. The Durham Savers Project is helping businesses provide a structured saving scheme within their organisation that helps staff save much more easily, and the reaction from staff is very positive. Project Development Officer Paul Atkinson said, “We’ve a lot of people in the county getting into financial difficulty because they are tied into high interest borrowing, unable to get a loan from the banks or have little or no money set aside; and we’re talking about people who have good jobs in many cases, and not just those on very low incomes.

Saving doesn’t need to be that difficult, most of could save a little, especially if we are working, and when employers offer their staff a savings scheme it makes it much easier. The uptake is good (around 30%), and that is because people find it a bit easier to save straight from their wages than they do trying to save alone. The scheme costs the business nothing, and it involves very little work on their behalf. When staff sign up to the salary saving scheme they can save as much or as little as they want; it is about developing the savings habit and passing on the experience to others. The staff saving scheme is provided by NEFirst, the project’s Credit Union partner. NEFirst are regulated by the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, they are the largest Credit Union is the Northeast run by over 200 staff and volunteers. Helping staff to create and build their own financial safety net can contribute significantly to better mental health and can lead to a much healthier and motivated workforce. The ‘Better Health at Work Award’ an initiative from Public Health, has recognised that financial wellbeing can be just as important as physical wellbeing, and have now embedded the salary saving scheme into their business accreditation.

What is Durham Savers? Durham Savers is a County Council led project to develop a savings culture. Recent data from the Office of National Statistics have told us that 50% of the population have less than £100 in savings, so the dependence on credit has never been higher. The use of high cost credit is costing the region millions of pounds every year. Helping people save regularly and borrow fairly are the main aims of the project. How can businesses help? Our Credit Union partner (NEFirst) work with Durham businesses to provide a structured salary savings scheme for their staff. The setting up of the ‘savings scheme’ is straightforward; it requires a simple deduction on the company’s payroll system for staff that are part of the scheme. Recruitment to the scheme is managed by the Credit Union and businesses can discuss with NEFirst the best way to do that for their organisation. Once staff have become members, the relationship is directly between them and the Credit Union. Helping staff to create and build their own financial safety net contributes to better mental health and can lead to a much healthier and motivated workforce. About the Credit Union? The Credit Union is a much safer and better solution for the needs of working families here in Durham, it provides an excellent way to save that not only helps us to develop a savings habit, it also helps people to borrow sensibly.  NEFirst Credit Union are a not for profit organisation regulated by The Bank of England. Visit: for more information about the organisation. For more information, visit: