Working with people on low incomes has been life-changing, says Sheen


Hollywood star Michael Sheen has said working with people struggling on low incomes has been literally "life-changing".

The actor spoke on Tuesday as he launched the End High Cost Credit Alliance to provide "fairer alternatives" to mainstream rent-to-own firms and payday lenders.

The umbrella group, involving 50 partners, was announced at the Responsible Finance 18 conference at Glasgow City Chambers.

Mr Sheen, who has appeared in Frost/Nixon, The Queen and the Twilight series, said the alliance will tackle "those who unfairly target the most vulnerable in society".

He said: "For the last seven or eight years I have becoming increasingly involved with a whole range of voluntary organisations, groups and projects and individuals from all across the UK working and supporting people who are going through a hard time.

"It's been literally life-changing."

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The actor decided to "scale down" his acting career and shift the focus of his life to help those struggling to get credit.

He said he was "in this for the long haul" and had stepped aside from the industry and invested his own money in the project.

Mr Sheen said one of the biggest challenges was tackling the increasing burden of household debt.

He said: "People need affordable credit and lenders who are fair."

He said the scheme would focus on helping those excluded from mainstream credit and forced to turn to high-cost credit as an alternative.

The actor also told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme he wanted to see a change in the sector that benefits borrowers and lenders.

The alliance wants to invest in not-for-profit organisations that provide "fairer alternatives" for low-income families helping them to compete with "high-cost credit competitors".

Representatives of think tanks, public health bodies and credit experts, he said, will be brought together under the umbrella group.

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Mr Sheen said it aims to create a "social movement" that hopes to drive change to policy and regulation, and improve financial education for young people.

He financed the umbrella organisation after hearing of people using high-cost credit through his work with support organisations and charities.

The Financial Conduct Authority on Tuesday told the BBC programme it had engaged with "a wide variety of groups, such as the End High Cost Credit Alliance, to ensure credit is sensibly available to those with lower incomes and means.

"We want to see more options and the emergence of 'mid-cost credit'."