Local charities, community groups, organisations and schools are being encouraged to bid for up to £5,000 of proceeds of crime money, to spend on a project of their choice which will help combat unscrupulous loan sharks.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have put forward multiple pots of £5,000 to fund projects that will assist in raising awareness of loan sharks, in the hope of preventing more people from falling victim of these criminals.

This large sum of cash, which has been confiscated from convicted loan sharks through the Proceeds of Crime Act, is being used to fund local community projects which meet the IMLT’s criteria.

The team will vote on which applicants will be granted the funding to support their community project. The aim of this national scheme is to see the illegal earnings these loan sharks once made, used wisely, to benefit key areas.

Last year, the national funding scheme was extremely popular, with the IMLT receiving over 150 bids for the available pots of money. As a result, 100 projects were funded and more work was carried out across England, in a bid to get rid of loan sharks in local communities.

Applicants are welcome to apply for the cash, to spend on any worthwhile community project which does at least one of the following:

  • Contributes to raising the awareness of the dangers of using ‘loan sharks’
  • Prevents crime and disorder and publicises the Stop Loan Sharks message
  • Promotes the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in communities
  • Encourages reporting of loan sharks

Loan sharks often trap borrowers into spiralling debt by charging astronomical rates of interest and arbitrary extra charges. In some cases, loan sharks have been known to resort to bullying tactics such as intimidation, threats and even violence to enforce repayment amongst borrowers.

Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:

“We are launching our national POCA funding scheme again this year and are encouraging charities, community groups and schools to bid for the cash available.

“Loan sharks are a scourge on our communities, and can have a huge detrimental impact on the lives of their victims. We’re looking to use proceeds of crime money to fund something positive and help prevent these criminals from operating in the future. If your project meets our criteria, then get in touch as we’d like to hear about your idea.

“If you or someone you know has been a victim of a loan shark, then please get in touch with the team on 0300 555 2222. Your call will be dealt with by a trained IMLT officer and all information will be treated in the strictest confidence.”

Examples of previous projects which have been funded using proceeds of crime money include:

  • Local drama production to warn residents about the dangers of loan sharks

Students from Telford College of Arts & Technology learnt about the dangers of loan sharks during an event organised by Coventry Citizens Advice and local partner agencies back in February. 

  • Loan shark ‘takeover’ across a local radio station
  • A community sofa which was created using different fabrics and featured various loan shark warning messages

Community Artwork Sofa designed by local groups in Tameside. The sofa is currently ‘on tour’ around the borough and is being displayed in different locations to catch the attention of residents. 

  • Stop Loan Sharks mural in a local school

Stop Loan Sharks mural designed by a local graffiti artist and presented in a school in Bradford. The mural helped to publicise the stop loan sharks message to members of the local community.

  • A loan shark prevention badge created by a girl guides group

Groups can apply for up to a maximum of £5,000 per project idea. Applicants can submit more than one project idea if they wish.

For more information about this funding scheme and to receive an electronic application form, please contact LIAISE Manager Cath Williams on Catherine.wohlers@birmingham.gov.uk

The closing date for applications is Friday 30th June 2017.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 370 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 318 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £71.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 26,500 people.