AN Inverclyde financial organisation says its appointments trebled during lockdown as more people sought advice on money matters.

Tail o' The Bank Credit Union in Kilblain Street continued to provide help to its 7,000 members via telephone and email when coronavirus restrictions were first enforced.

After being closed for around three weeks, the union gradually reopened and is now operating five days a week.

Chairperson Sandra Wilson says it was vital that the team at the union was there for its members in difficult times.

Sandra said: "Paying money in is part of a routine for people and it was so important that we helped them maintain that.

"We were determined to continue to provide help and support to people who needed us.

"Some of our members were having a difficult time with their finances as their circumstances had changed.

"We were as flexible as possible and offered alternatives to people."

Sandra and the team of volunteers set up a standing order system to help members make faster payments if they couldn't make it into the union's office.

An increasing number of members also started using cards as opposed to cash transactions.

Sandra, pictured with her colleagues, says it's been important for the credit union and its members to adapt to new ways of working.

She added: "We had to start looking at a lot of things in relation to the way we were running things to bring in social distancing.

"When we first reopened, we had queues all down the street as we can only have two customers in at the same time.

"Many of our volunteers were shielding too, which meant that we had to adapt to the reduced numbers.

"We're being very careful with hand hygiene and have installed screens for face-to-face appointments."

Sandra and the team have sadly had to deal with a significant increase in appointments following the death of loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak.

In one week in May, the team worked with seven different members to process paperwork and sort out finances after family members had passed away.

This was particularly difficult for the team as their treasurer, nurse Janice Graham, tragically passed away after a battle with the virus in April.

Sandra said: "We all miss Janice so much.

"She was our treasurer and volunteered on the desk.

"A lot of our members really miss her too.

"They tell us how much they miss her laugh and her humour.

"We're hoping to organise a memorial event in Janice's honour next year."

As lockdown continues to ease in Inverclyde, Sandra hopes that the union will attract even more members - and is encouraging people to speak out if they have money problems.

She said: "Members have been very patient and understanding with us in these difficult times and we want to thank them for that.

"If people can't manage to make a payment, they're wary of coming in and then things mount up and it becomes more of a problem.

"Please don't be embarrassed about asking for help and advice - we can work together to find a workable solution."

Anne Thompson, from Greenock, joined the union last year and says the support from the team helped her keep on track with her savings during these difficult times.

Anne, 61, pictured at the front, said: "The staff are lovely and are always really helpful.

"I use the union to save up for holidays.

"It's been good having them during lockdown and still being able to access the services.

"The staff help me keep track of my money and stop me getting into any debt.

"They help to ease any worries you might have about your money."