The Diocese of Rochester has pledged to help foster a zero-tolerance attitude to illegal money lending by signing up to an anti-loan shark charter today (Monday 2 July).
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, hosted civic and community-based organisations which support victims of loan sharks, to send a clear message that they are united in a zero-tolerance approach to this crime.
The signing was organised in conjunction with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to raise awareness of the problem and help people in the local community.
There is often a reluctance to speak about loan sharks, but the charter aims to start a conversation about the issue and in doing so reach those who are at risk – often some of the hardest to reach people.
Bishop James said that he welcomed the initiative: “I am so pleased that as a Diocese we are involved with this campaign. The effect of loan sharks on people’s lives can often seem quite hidden. Churches are very good at providing a network through which these stories, as well as information about where people can get help, can be brought together to build a compelling case about why we need to do more to take illegal money lending out of our communities.”
Representing the Church of England across Medway, north west Kent and the London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley, the Diocese also received an award from the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) for awareness raising activities it has already undertaken
Caroline Clarke, Diocesan Community Engagement and Social Action Adviser said:
“Loan sharks devastate the most vulnerable people in our communities, often causing them to get into a spiral of debt and intimidation which can lead to homelessness and even suicide.
“This is totally unacceptable and the church is making a stand by uniting the organisations within our communities to raise awareness about the dangers of borrowing money from a loan shark and to help victims by getting the Stop Loan Sharks helpline out there.”
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“Loan sharks target some of the most vulnerable people in our society and so it’s vitally important we work with key organisations to combat illegal money lending in our communities.
“This charter sends out a strong message that loan sharks will not be tolerated in the Diocese and those caught flouting the law will be prosecuted.
“We urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help bring them to justice.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 382 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject