Merseyside Society for Deaf People scoop national award for tackling loan sharks

Merseyside Society for Deaf People (MSDP) has won a national award in recognition of its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of using loan sharks. MSDP is the first Deaf charity in the country to be awarded Partner Recognition accreditation from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).

The IMLT investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders while supporting those who have borrowed money from a loan shark.  The Liverpool based charity has been recognised by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) for their initiatives tackling loan sharks in the county and making communities safer.

The new accreditation programme recognises and rewards partners that work alongside IMLT to raise awareness of loan sharks, and their impact on local communities, and to create safer spaces for people to live and work.

As well as training staff on how to support clients at risk of loan sharks and educating the Deaf Community on loan sharks in BSL, the charity also teamed up with Merseysign Theatre Group to create a film.  The 10 minute production ‘In the Hands of a Shark’ was a result of workshops with the Illegal Money Lending Team and sees Deaf people re-enacting scenarios of illegal money lending.  The video was premiered to local Deaf clubs and groups.  For more details of MSDP’s Stop Loan Shark campaign and film please go to https://www.msdp.org.uk/loan-sharks/

Loan sharks are increasingly using social media platforms to advertise their illegal loans and target potential victims.

A recent campaign by IMLT, called #SharkFreeSurfing, ran across the Stop Loan social media platforms, with the aim of encouraging not just victims, but the wider community to report online illegal money lending activity.

Janice Connolly, Community Engagement Manager of MSDP said: “It has been fantastic to work with the Illegal Money Lending Team on both our film project and the Partner Recognition accreditation.  We are delighted to be the first Deaf charity in the UK to become a partner. 

“This project is important as Deaf people are routinely excluded from mainstream services.  Deaf people who use BSL as their first language do not have the same access to information as hearing people.  We know that many of our beneficiaries are digitally and financially excluded.  Even the basics of understanding % rates of loans is difficult when your first language is not English.

We have worked hard to educate our communities about the dangers of taking out loans and also letting them know about saving with the local Credit Union.  The project has raised awareness of loan sharks for our Deaf staff as well as our Deaf Community.”

Tony Quigley, Head of England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We would like to congratulate MSDP on their partner recognition award and thank them for their outstanding efforts tackling loan sharks.

“We are extremely grateful for the support of our partners across the country and rely on them to act as our eyes and ears in communities. By working together, we can stamp out illegal money lending and protect residents from this awful crime.

“We continue to encourage people to come forward if they know of or have been a victim of loan sharks. You are not alone and we will support you.”

Anyone who believes they might be the victim of a loan shark can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222, email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or complete an online report form at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Notes to editors:

Merseyside Society for Deaf People has been supporting people with hearing loss across Merseyside for more than 150 years.  The charity exists to tackle inequality, promote independence and empower d/Deaf and hard of hearing people through delivery of services and raising deaf awareness. More than 60% of the staff are Deaf and British Sign Language (BSL) is our operational language. The charity is home to one the largest Deaf networks in the country – Wirral Deaf Community and Liverpool Deaf Community.