Beyond the Pardner Hand - how else did Caribbeans manage their money?

Discover the different ways the Caribbean community overcame financial barriers in the UK.
Published on 30 June 2023


Catherine Ross and Lynda Burrell, co-founders of Museumand

This is the third blog in a series of blogs written by Museumand – the National Caribbean Heritage Museum celebrating the role and contribution of the Caribbean community in the UK. So far we’ve focused on the role of community savings schemes, particularly the Pardner Hand, in supporting the Caribbean community to thrive both in the Caribbean and here in the UK.

In this blog, we want to look at some of the other methods the Caribbean community used to supplement the gap left by the barriers that stopped them from accessing formal financial services. These are methods still used today and have been used by many diasporas and working-class communities over the years, mainly to combat low wages.

“Seven people living in a house was a strong motivator to get a deposit to buy your own house, and the quickest and easiest way to do this was to join a Pardner!” – Chelsie

Shops such as Colin Mitchell Supermarket sold Caribbean fruits and vegetables that the community sought. Image: Provided by Museumand.

Credit Unions

Credit unions, also known as co-operatives, are community-based savings schemes. The Pardner Hand system is an example that still thrives today within the Caribbean community. Membership of a credit union tends to be based on a common bond based on members employer such as family, geographic location, or membership of another group. Some faith-based organisations set up credit unions for their members to provide ethical savings schemes and low-cost loans.

“…it’s a landmark in our culture and a feature of community support…" - Maxwell

Families used money from Pardner Hand, credit unions, catalogue clubs and more to save money for their children’s future and ensure their success. Image: Provided by Museumand.

Sending money “back home”

Members of the Windrush Generation often sent money from the UK to the Caribbean to help support their family and friends. Before services such as online and telephone banking, people often used postal orders. This involved the sender buying a money order at their local post office, which was then “cashed” by the recipient at another post office. Others preferred to use money transfer companies such as Western Union and others sent cash home with trusted friends who were visiting or returning to the Caribbean. This method worked well most of the time, but it could destroy friendships if the money wasn’t handed over!

“People would collect their pardner money and send it home for family, for them to use as necessary to meet their needs. Money is still sent back home but more and more people do so using regular payments through things like Western Union.” - Reverend Lorna

Hire purchase 

Often referred to as ‘buying things on the never-never’, hire purchase was a popular way to make things like TVs and washing machines more affordable, by paying for them in instalments. Many Caribbeans embraced the opportunity and made their homes places of envy!

Catalogue Clubs

Running a catalogue club was a popular way for people to earn extra money. It also helped people buy essential or luxury items and to send essentials and treats “back home” to their families in the Caribbean. Items were purchased through the club leader to make the most of any discounts available, and everyone would pay their monthly instalment to the club leader who would pass the money on to the catalogue company. Some of the most famous British examples include the Littlewoods catalogue and the Freemans catalogue.

With gratitude to the Museumand community for sharing their stories and memories of Pardner Hand.