pentagonMedway Credit Union has moved into a new home as part of an ongoing campaign to give people on low incomes a safer alternative to pay day loan shops and doorstep lenders.

The low-cost savings and loans co-operative, one of two based in Medway, is now based on the first floor of the Pentagon Centre in Chatham. It had previously been based in a less prominent position further along the High Street.

The move to a more central location will boost the profile of Medway Credit Union, which has previously been open just three days a week from 11am to 2pm. It is now open Wednesday to Saturday 10.30am to 3pm. The credit union will share its new home from Monday, 23 September with a drop-in advice centre for Medway residents whose access to benefits may have been affected by government reforms.

Ministers have provided Medway Council with £75,000 in funding to help explain changes to the welfare system, many of which came into force earlier this year. Staff will help with enquiries about government welfare reforms introduced over recent months including changes to council tax benefit and the new universal credit and personal independence payments. Cllr Jane Chitty, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Economic Growth, said: “We are doing our utmost in Medway to support our residents, some of whom are looking for work or struggling with debt as a result of these tough economic times.

“This new centre will offer them advice and support and with the presence of Medway Credit Union, a safer alternative to the kinds of loans that can lead to people being caught up in a spiral of debt, that is impossible to pay off. “The centre will also be able link them to other services available such as housing support, the council’s own Employ Medway job skills centre , and community services such as Citizens Advice Bureau, for example.”

Caroline Swift, chairman of Medway Credit Union, said: “We are now in a much more prominent position within the Pentagon Shopping Centre. This means we are now visible and accessible to many more people from right across Medway. “We want people to come and find out what we can offer through secure savings and access to very manageable, low interest loans and to encourage them to keep away from the very high interest lenders on the High Street as well as doorstep lenders and unlicensed loan sharks.”