BOLTON’S first church credit union has opened to help some of the town’s poorest people.

St James CE Church in Breightmet has become the first in Bolton to link up with Hoot credit union to help people struggling to make ends meet.

Volunteers at the church in Roscow Avenue have undergone training with the co-operative bank to help people set up accounts and access affordable loans through Hoot.

It is hoped the scheme will stop hard-pressed residents resorting to pay day loan companies.

Church warden Carol Atkinson said plans were set out to link the credit union and St James’ last year — long before the Archbishop of Canterbury announced his bid for church leaders to work with the community banks last week.

She added: “There’s a lot of deprivation in this area, and it’s good for the church to offer help and support.

“This is part of our ongoing outreach programme, to get out into the community and involve the community in what we are doing.

“If we can stop just one person going to a loan shark, we will have achieved what we wanted to do.”

The volunteers will be on hand from 10am until noon every Tuesday to answer residents’ questions and give them help to set up an account or getting a loan.

As well as working with the credit union, St James’ also has a food bank collection for Urban Outreach every Sunday, and holds a free loss and bereavement support group with a trained counsellor fortnightly.

Falak Arshad, a membership service officer for Hoot, said the organisation was pleased to have St James on board.

She added: “We want to make Hoot known throughout Bolton, and churches like St James are at the centre of their communities.

“It’s not just about loans. It’s helping people manage their money effectively.

“With universal credit set to be introduced soon, we want to help teach people how to manage their money and stop them spiralling into debt.”