Council Leader Mohammed Khan (centre) signed the loan shark charter with council reps and partner organisations yesterday
Blackburn with Darwen Council has pledged support to raising awareness of illegal money lending by signing a charter aimed at stopping loan sharks.
The Stop Loan Sharks Charter is an agreement between the Council and the England Illegal Money Lending Team. The signing of it signals the start of ongoing collaboration across a range of local agencies and organisations to comprehensively address the issue in Blackburn with Darwen.
Local partners and endorsers of the charter include Jubilee Tower Credit Union, Age UK, Together Housing, Care Network, Together Lancashire and CGL.
Work includes implementing plans to support the charter and the annual loan sharks awareness week, securing prosecutions and helping people in the hands of loan sharks to access advice and support.
It also involves providing financial advice to the local community, so Blackburn with Darwen residents can make informed financial choices, and promoting local credit unions like Jubilee Tower Credit Union, based in Darwen as a safer, more ethical place to save and borrow.
An official signing of the charter took place yesterday Wednesday, January 22 alongside a day of activity in the borough including a stop loan sharks training session for partner organisations to learn more about the practice of illegal money lending, how to support victims and the broader impact illegal money lending has on the community.
The group were also shown an advert created by young people in Blackburn which illustrates the devastating effects of illegal money lending on families.
Local filmmaker Aaron Dunleavy was awarded proceeds of crime funding from Stop Loan Sharks to deliver filmmaking workshops to engage and educate youth groups at The Hive on the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks. The project will prevent more people from falling victim of these criminals and the misery that they spread.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team’s mascot ‘Sid the Shark’ has also been in Blackburn and Darwen town centres on the day to further raise awareness.
Councillor Damian Talbot, Executive Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “Loan sharks operate below the regulatory radar, are hard to reach and their victims are understandably reluctant to share what they know. As these debts are unenforceable in law, lenders usually enforce debts through fear, intimidation, violence, sexual offences and other illicit means. They are an insidious problem in society and we must do more to stop people becoming victim to their practices and work to catch and prosecute them.
The aim of the charter is to bring together leaders from the Council and other key organisations, who deal with victims of loan sharks, to make a stand against illegal money lending and send a clear message that we are united in a zero tolerance approach to this crime.
More than 310,000 households across the country are estimated to borrow from illegal money lenders, who charge exorbitant rates of interest, force people into a spiral of debt and often resort to violence or intimidation to force repayments.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “This campaign is a fantastic example of how partners in Blackburn with Darwen are working together to stamp out fear and vulnerability caused by illegal money lenders. We not only want to warn people of the perils but offer our support to those who may be susceptible to getting involved with loan sharks.
“Loan sharks can initially appear friendly, but their behaviour can quickly change, with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. We would encourage any resident with information on illegal money lending activity to report it as soon as possible.
Loan sharks can be reported on the 24/7 confidential helpline 0300 555 2222 or complete an online form here.