This election gives us the opportunity to fix our services and fight for change.

It’s no secret that today’s young people will be worse off than our parents. We’re less likely to own property, less likely to have any substantial savings, and are generally less financially resilient than the generations that came before us.

Last year, 37% of 18 to 24 year olds held one or more credit card and had an average overdraft of nearly £3,000, with a third of young people describing their debts as a ‘heavy burden’. But when it comes to lifting that burden, few young people actually seek advice and support, largely because we don’t know where to look.

Knowing how to manage money, what and when to save, and where to get help when things go wrong are all vital parts of young people’s journeys towards financial independence. But despite its obvious importance, financial literacy is not something that’s usually taught in schools or colleges, or even on university campuses where this education is so needed.This lack of education has been cited as one of the main causes of financial exclusion, especially in young people, whose entire financial futures are put at risk.

It’s clear that the status quo isn’t working, but there is an alternative. Like traditional banks, credit unions offer the whole range of financial services, from holding deposits and offering loans to issuing ATM cards. But where banks operate for profit, making money by charging interest and collecting fees, credit unions are owned by their members, reinvesting profits for the collective good.

It is absolutely right that the Co-operative Party have emphasised the central role of credit unions in their list of priorities for the next parliament. Despite ambitions across the credit union movement for growth and expansion, too often strict regulations and red tape hold this progress back. The party’s policy platform suggests a whole range of reforms – from establishing payroll deduction facilities for public sector workers to improving outdated credit union legislation.

But building a fairer economy doesn’t stop at direct financial services. Credit unions up and down the UK also work in their communities to promote financial health and reduce financial exclusion. These activities include free seminars on buying a home and reducing debt, and working with children and families in schools, setting up school saving clubs. In Haringey, the local council started an innovative scheme offering a credit union account to every child, opened in their first year of primary school, to encourage long term saving. With the right support from government, schemes like this could be rolled out across the UK.

Traditional banking is failing, but the credit union movement is stepping up. This election gives us the opportunity to fix our services and fight for change. It’s time for an economy where financial literacy is commonplace and everyone has access to the financial services they need. It’s time to strive for a fairer economy, one that works for us all.

You can download the #GE2019 Co-operative Party Policy Platform here.