FAMILIES in Birkenhead have been learning about the dangers of loan sharks as part of a community arts and crafts project.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – worked with Wirral Methodist Housing Association to deliver a series of drop-in art workshops for parents and children to show off their creative skills.
Attendees designed sharks of all shapes and sizes, including shark windsocks, peg sharks and newspaper sharks.
Each piece of art was labelled with contact information for the IMLT in case parents are in the grip of a loan shark and need confidential help.
The ‘Don’t Get Bitten by a Loan Shark’ workshops attracted 45 children between the ages of 3-12 years.
Pictured: Families take part in shark-themed arts and crafts workshops
The project and materials used for the workshops were funded by the IMLT using proceeds of crime money.
The objective of the community scheme is to warn residents about the dangers of using loan sharks in the lead up to Christmas. Some families might be tempted to use a local loan shark because of an unexpected energy bill.
The arts and crafts workshops were held at Beaconsfield Community House during the last week of October. The venue hosts families during the school holidays and provides warm meals to children outside term time so they do not go hungry. There is also a weekly social supermarket, community café, as well as lots of other fun activities for families.
Jill Carter, Community Liaison Officer for Wirral Methodist Housing Association, said:
“The arts and crafts workshops were a real success, many families took the important loan shark messages home with them. We believe that artwork has more longevity than an information flyer or leaflet as the decorative piece can be placed on a fridge or shelf, so it will serve as a constant reminder of the dangers of using loan sharks. We are aware illegal money lending happens in all different communities, with Birkenhead maybe being one, so we are keen to raise continual awareness of this under-reported crime.”
An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt. Many loan sharks will resort to bullying tactics, such as intimidation, threats and even violence to enforce repayment.
People are urged never to use loan sharks who may refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how long they will be repaying for or the interest rate they will be charged. Often they do not give paperwork and loans will just keep growing even if the borrower is making regular payments. These criminals may appear friendly at first, but can resort to violence, threats and intimidation if payments are not met.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“We’re pleased to be working with Wirral Methodist Housing Association to raise awareness of loan sharks to families in Birkenhead.
“Our aim is to steer parents away from using loan sharks in the run up to Christmas and warn them that borrowing from unlicensed lenders could bring great misery to their lives. If you are already in the grip of a loan shark, we urge you to seek help by contacting us on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 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
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject