Citizens Advice Havant wins prestigious national award for work to fight loan sharks

Citizens Advice Havant has become the first Citizens Advice team in England to win a prestigious national award for its work to help tackle loan sharks.

The branch has been awarded the official Partner Plus Award from the England Illegal Money Lending Team – known as Stop Loan Sharks – a national organisation that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks and supports borrowers.

A loan shark is someone who provides loans without the correct authorisation, often charging high interest rates. They may keep hold of a person’s valuables or bank card as security against the loan or make threats if a borrower falls behind on repayment.

The Citizens Advice Havant team members attended a Stop Loan Sharks training session and have since embedded information about illegal lenders into their day-to-day work.

This includes teaching about loan sharks in local schools as part of the Work Out Your Money project and spreading the message to the local community, encouraging anyone involved with a loan shark to get specialist support from the IMLT.

The Partner Plus award is given to those who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to support the IMLT’s work in tackling loan sharks.

The Stop Loan Sharks mascot Sid The Shark came along to present a trophy to service delivery manager, Amanda Whiteland-Smith, staff members and volunteers.

Amanda said: “The Stop Loan Sharks campaign has been embedded in our Money Awareness sessions for many years. Excellent training by the Illegal Money Lending Team ensures our frontline advisers delve deeper when a client mentions a loan from a ‘friend’.

“Our display material, social media posts and radio ads make talking about the real costs and risks integral to our work. We are proud to achieve a Partner Plus award for what we do.”

Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “Many congratulations to the Citizens Advice Havant team for achieving this award. We are so grateful to them for all the great work they do in helping fight illegal money lending in England.

“Early education and raising awareness in communities is vital so that people know the signs to look out for and where to go for help, and we rely on our partners across England to help us with this.”

This week (May 13 to 19, 2024) is Stop Loan Sharks Week, which has the theme No Blame, No Shame. Borrowers can sometimes feel afraid to admit they have borrowed from an illegal lender because they feel ashamed or think they have done something wrong, But the lender is the criminal not them.

This year is also the 20th anniversary of the IMLT. Since its launch, it has supported over 31,500 people and written off over £91.2 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 420 prosecutions for illegal money lending, leading to more than 600 years in jail.

Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.