A CREATIVE campaign involving money trees is set to bring useful messages to libraries in Wiltshire.

The campaign, which is being led by Kennet Furniture Refurbiz, will see money trees being made out of recyclable materials and installed in to libraries across the county.

Kennet Furniture Refurbiz – a furniture and white goods reuse charity in Wiltshire – are working with the Repair Academy, Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to deliver the project.

The project will involve members of the community coming together to create giant money trees to raise awareness of the support services available in Wiltshire for individuals struggling with loan sharks, debt and poverty.

The leaves on the money trees will contain useful messages and contact details for the IMLT, Wiltshire Savings and Loans Credit Union, The Trussell Trust and other support agencies.

The IMLT are commissioning the project using £4690 of proceeds of crime money. This available cash has come from convicted loan sharks who have had all their available assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002). Kennet Furniture Refurbiz and the Repair Academy will deliver the community workshops and help guests create their personalised money trees.

The idea for the project came about after a recent report (The Wiltshire Uncovered Report 2014) revealed the areas which have the highest levels of deprivation. Kennet Furniture Refurbiz is often hearing from clients about the need to access finance and flexible payment terms because of their low incomes and stretched finances.

Debbie Bentley, Volunteer Coordinator for Kennet Furniture Refurbiz, said:

“We see so many customers that are struggling to make ends meet from the cost of a new washing machine to having a bed to sleep in and understand the temptation there must be to seek funds from unscrupulous lenders. We want to raise awareness of illegal money lending as often, victims are reluctant to come forward and report because they are either scared of the repercussions of reporting the loan shark or don’t know where to seek help. We are looking forward to working with the local community to raise awareness of this under-reported crime.”

Kennet Furniture Refurbiz will donate recyclable materials for residents to design their own money trees. The leaves on the trees will contain helpful messages and contact details for support agencies. Local residents will be able to pick the leaves off the trees and take the messages home with them.

Residents attended the first money tree event at Tidworth Community Centre yesterday (Tuesday 24 October). The event attracted over 50 guests, including families and children, who all helped build the first money tree.

Pictured: Guests help decorate the first money tree with useful messages and contact details for local support agencies

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

“We are working closely with Kennet Furniture Refurbiz to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from unscrupulous loan sharks.

“This project will help signpost members of the community to the appropriate agencies for help and support on a range of issues. We urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to call us on 0300 555 2222. Your call will be handled by a trained IMLT officer and we will take information anonymously and in confidence. Alternatively, please visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”

An estimated 310,000 households in the UK are borrowing from these unlicensed money lenders.

Loan sharks will typically appear friendly at first but their behaviour can quickly change with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. These criminals operate illegally, without correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority and rarely provide paperwork on the loans.

Borrowers are often left in the dark as to how much they owe, the interest being charged and the period they have to pay the money back. Loan sharks have been known to take personal items from borrowers as security; this could include a passport, bank card or sentimental piece of jewellery being handed over to the lender.

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

E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk  

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject