Local community urged to avoid loan sharks as The Salvation Army launch new art workshop in Warrington

The Salvation Army’s Lifehouse in Warrington, James Lee House, has been awarded funding from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to raise awareness of loan sharks throughout the local community for those struggling financially.

The grant, which saw £3,800 awarded to James Lee House following a written application detailing how the Lifehouse will raise awareness of illegal money lending, has come from the proceeds of crime taken from convicted loan sharks.

The grant will be put towards providing art therapy sessions for the local community, inviting groups to take part in a ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ workshop. Participants will create an ‘army of sharks’ made from clay whilst discussing the issues surrounding the use of illegal money lenders ensuring that loan sharks don’t bite at this time of year when money is often tight.

Clay sharks made in the workshop

Matthew Davenport, service manager of The Salvation Army’s Lifehouse, James Lee House said: “The nature of our client group means that they are susceptible to loan sharks, especially after the Christmas period when their funds have been stretched and they experience a financial hangover in the new year.”

“The idea behind the workshop is to promote responsible borrowing. Some of our residents have been involved in the criminal justice system prior to arriving at James Lee House and have been vulnerable in the past, having to deal with the many challenges that homelessness brings.

“We would like to leave behind a positive legacy by sharing advice where victims can go for support and how to report illegal money lending. The project sends out a strong message that loan sharks will not be tolerated in our community.”

Illegal money lenders, more commonly known as loan sharks, lend money without having the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority, often giving cash loans without paperwork and charging extortionate interest rates.

James Lee House provides a regular programme of activities aimed at empowering the residents to see their strengths, develop the belief and strive to release their potential in everything they choose to take part in.

Debbie Lyon, art therapy teacher at James Lee House who will be running the workshops said: “We strongly believe that this project will deliver an outstanding impact and send messages to not only our residents but to the local community in their own social circles who are potentially susceptible to this behaviour.

“This subject matter is something that our residents can completely engage with whilst others will have seen first-hand the tragic effects of illegal money lenders.”

Members of the public (18+) are invited to a clay making workshop at James Lee House, Brick St, Warrington WA1 2PD on Saturday, 25th January between 1pm and 3pm.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We are pleased to be working with The Salvation Army to raise awareness of the risks of turning to unscrupulous loan sharks.

“It’s important to highlight the dangers of illegal money lending as it usually leads to people getting into even greater debt and financial difficulty, as well as the other problems which can follow such as threats of violence and links to crime.

“We want to make sure people are aware of where to go for support and encourage anyone who is a victim to report it as soon as possible.”

James Lee House has been part of the town for more than five decades and provides 54 beds for men and women over the age of 18 experiencing homelessness in and around Warrington. Run by The Salvation Army, the Lifehouse celebrated its 50th anniversary in July 2018.

The final sculptures will be displayed during an exhibition in the Golden Square next month.

To report a loan shark, call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 555 2222 or complete an online form here.