Citizens Advice Telford win national award for tackling loan sharks

A CHARITY has won a national award for tackling loan sharks in Telford.

Citizens Advice Telford received the Highly Commended award for their ‘bite back’ campaign which saw a number of events being held across town to tackle the issue of illegal money lending and help those affected.

The national Stop Loan Sharks Awards, hosted by the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), recognise organisations that help the fight against loan sharks and commend those who have made a real difference in communities by highlighting this crime.

The charity worked with secondary schools and colleges in Telford to host an information day to warn young people about the perils of using loan sharks.

More than 300 people attended the event, which included a hard-hitting drama production about loan sharks called ‘It’s Only A Few Quid’ by Shontal Theatre Group and a question-and-answer session with the IMLT.

Lyn Brayne, Service Director of Citizens Advice Telford, said:

“We are pleased to receive this award and help the Illegal Money Lending Team to combat loan sharks in our town.

“The campaign was designed to hit home the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders. Overall the drama event was a real success as it reached a significant number of people of all age groups in Telford & Wrekin.”

Other work also included a week of action last November to warn residents about the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks in the run up to Christmas.

IMLT Sid the Shark visited schools and public places during the week to educate people on the problems of illegal money lenders and give advice about alternative finance options.

Loan sharks operate illegally, without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority. These criminals usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can’t legally be enforced, many lenders will resort to the most extreme and callous methods to enforce repayment including threats, violence and intimidation.

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:

“We are delighted to present Citizens Advice Telford with this award for their excellent continued work to ensure local communities turn away from loan sharks.

“It is important for people to realise that alternatives to borrowing from loan sharks are available if you are in financial difficulty. We urge anyone affected by illegal money lending to contact us in confidence on 0300 555 2222 as we can help.”

Just Credit Union offers accessible savings and affordable loans to residents in Shropshire. Established in 2001, the credit union has lent a total of over £10 million in low cost loans to members.

The credit union has launched a new initiative to encourage people to build up savings for rainy days and financial emergencies.

The scheme is being funded using confiscated cash which has been seized from loan sharks under money laundering laws.

The first 50 new members to join Just Credit Union and save a minimum of £10 over a 13 week period will qualify for a £25 bonus. Local partners are helping to promote the scheme to vulnerable customers. These include Wrekin Housing, Bournville Village Trust and Citizen’s Advice Telford.

Karen Farrow, Chief Officer at Just Credit Union said:

“As Shropshire’s not for profit community bank, we consider it our duty to provide people with ethical affordable loans and to encourage saving. We are delighted to be working with the Illegal Money Lending Team to encourage people to open savings accounts with ourselves and avoid unscrupulous money lenders who not only charge exorbitant interest rates but follow unethical and illegal practices”.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 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

E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk 

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject