Dudley pupils learn lessons about loan sharks

Sid the Shark with Dingle Community Primary School pupils

Primary school pupils have been learning about the risks of becoming involved with a loan shark and finding out about how to manage their money effectively.

White Socks Theatre Company visited several schools across the borough to deliver ‘Watch Out, Sharks About!’ – a game show-inspired workshop raising awareness of illegal money lending and promoting better savings behaviour.

The workshops are aimed at improving financial literacy among young people and encourage pupils to think about money management, borrowing and saving.

The children gained important personal finance skills preparing them for the future and learnt about the dangers of dealing with loan sharks.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Learning how to effectively manage finances is a vital life skill. It was great working with White Socks Theatre to engage with young people and explain why they should never consider using a loan shark when they grow up.

“The workshops equipped pupils with valuable money management knowledge and skills that they can use now and in the future. We hope they will share what they have learnt with their families and encourage parents who may be in difficulties to seek help and support.”

The activities were funded by proceeds of crime, money seized from convicted loan sharks.

Jimmy Bates, Creative Director at White Socks Theatre said: “After a successful tour of Worcestershire schools, ‘Watch Out, Sharks About!’ was delivered in primary schools in Dudley. Our interactive, entertaining blend of gameshow and workshop engages young minds; exploring financial education and recognising illegal money lending as a safeguarding issue. We have had an overwhelming response from the schools in Dudley and we are very proud to be working with the Illegal Money Lending Team to raise awareness on such an important issue.”

The England Illegal Money Lending Team investigates and prosecutes loan sharks who often trap borrowers into spiralling debt through exorbitant rates of interest and arbitrary extra charges. When people are unable to pay, many will resort to bully tactics such as intimidation, threats or violence.

“The more people who we can alert and inform about the dangers of loan sharks, the better.” added Tony.

Loan sharks target vulnerable members of the community and offer illegal loans which may see them pay back much more than they originally borrowed.

John Guest from Upper Gornal in Dudley pocketed £340,000 over six years from vulnerable victims through his illegal money lending racket.

He issued more than 270 loans ranging from £100 to £3,000 to 58 borrowers, charging them interest of between 50 – 100 per cent and consistently topping up loans to increase his profit margins. The majority were paying off two or more loans at the same time.

He was handed a 22-month suspended prison sentence in June last year.

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.

To report a loan shark, call the 24/7 confidential helpline 0300 555 2222 or complete an online form here.