THE BLOG
28/11/2013 05:08 GMT | Updated 27/01/2014 05:59 GMT

National Payday Scandal Exposed by Grassroots Activists Forced the Government to Act

"You've got to cap the overall cost of credit." Of all the people I thought would say those words - and many people have been saying exactly that, for a long time - I was surprised to hear them from George Osborne. But perhaps I shouldn't have been.

For a start, I should be used to surprises. If anyone should be expecting the unexpected, it's me. A few years ago I was trapped in the payday loan cycle, resolutely private about it and entirely at a loss as to what to do. Back then, I never expected I would be telling my story in a national paper, or discussing regulation with Stella Creasy and Ed Miliband. It's amazing what well organised anger can achieve.

I understand if you assume I must be a certain type of person for taking out a payday loan, because at the time I thought so too - and I've actually met me. I know I'm not a stupid person, I'm not reckless and I'm not lacking in will power, but at the time I felt all of those things and worse. All because of one 30 second bad decision, when a friend called me from abroad and said he didn't have the money to get home. I offered to help before I thought it through, never considering that I wouldn't have the money the next month, or the month after that... Before I knew it, I was washing my hair in soap and skipping meals, all so I could claw my way out of debt without anyone knowing. I was adamant no one would ever know.

I finally got over my shame when I started to feel anger about my situation. And, working with Movement for Change, going on their training weekend in community organising, I was able to put that anger into action. I told my story. I found people that agreed with me, people who felt the same way I did, and people who were in the same position as I was. All of our experience showed how badly a cap on the cost of credit was needed, and what such a change could mean. So we put a case together. It's another reason that I shouldn't be surprised by the Chancellors comments - it was a strong case, and he was right to be convinced.

This announcement follows two years of persistent campaigning by activists like me from across the country, building power alongside their communities. From Edinburgh in the North to Southampton in the South, with plenty in between, activists have worked with trade unions, local Labour parties, faith institutions and a wide range of other community groups to bring the issue of high cost debt into the mainstream and now onto the political agenda.

The battle isn't won, of course. A cap on the cost of credit is just one of many changes that need to be made, and we have yet to hear what that cap will be or how it will be set. But for those of us who've been making these arguments for months, and for those of us who've laid awake at night worrying about debt, today is a monumental day. It a step closer to fair, well regulated credit, and it's a sign that community organising can make a real difference. It is a day to celebrate our success so far, and motivation to keep working on everything we have left to do.

It's an ambitious project. We still have to ensure the cap is implemented and that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) listens to real stories when making decisions on the level of the cap. Tackling harassment is another aim of the campaign, which is made up of people who have experienced things such as being followed home or having their windows scaled by money collectors. The Government needs to also ensure wider access to fairer credit. Some people believe this is not possible but we have strong evidence, logical arguments and passionate activists - and we might just surprise them.