The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have launched the latest round of their Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund with a share of £160,000 funding up for grabs.
Charities, community groups, schools, and public, private and voluntary sector organisations are able to apply for proceeds of crime funding for projects that raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and help make communities safer.
Grants of up to £5,000 are being made available with collaborative bids between multiple agencies being considered. Projects must raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks, help to reduce crime and disorder and have a positive impact on local communities.
The funding comes from money recovered from convicted loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
There has never been a more important time to raise awareness of the devastating impact illegal money lending has on victims and their families and highlight the support available to those affected.
As the cost of living continues to rise and more people face increased hardship, there are concerns that loan sharks will look to exploit the most vulnerable struggling to make ends meet.
In a new report published last month, Swimming with Sharks, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) reveals that there could already be up to one million people in debt to loan sharks in England, with some lenders demanding sexual favours as repayment from borrowers.
Over £2.5 million has been given to more than 600 deserving projects so far since the Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund launched over 10 years ago.
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Projects previously funded have included graffiti murals, art therapy sessions for vulnerable adults and drama performances in schools highlighting the dangers of dealing with loan sharks.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “Loan sharks have a devastating impact on individuals, their families and the wider community – which is why we’re keen to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from these unscrupulous lenders and promote the support that is available to anyone who has already borrowed from one.
“By taking these lenders off the streets and stripping them of their ill-gotten gains, we are effectively drying up their funds to other criminals, and sending a message to the community that they do not have to live in fear, and with your help, we can put a stop to this sort of criminality.
“We urge eligible groups to come forward to apply for the funding and help make their community a safer, stronger and more resilient place where crime cannot thrive.”
People are urged to beware of the warning signs when dealing with illegal lenders, including providing no paperwork or agreement, refusing to supply information about the loan, keeping items such as a passport or bank card until the debt is paid, removing property for late payment, adding interest or charges so the outstanding amount never decreases, or using intimidation and violence over non-payment.
Details on how to apply for the funding can be found at www.stoploansharks.co.uk/poca-funding
The closing date for applications is Thursday, June 30.
Anyone who believes they might be the victim of a loan shark can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays.