Runcorn pupils lead the fight against loan sharks

Youngsters at a Runcorn primary school are biting back against loan sharks as part of a new awareness campaign.

Pupils at St Martin’s Primary School have been learning about the dangers of loan sharks as part of the Spot the Shark campaign to raise awareness of the issue and help children manage their money wisely.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have been working with Cheshire Police and Halton Borough Council Trading Standards to deliver educational assemblies to pupils on how to avoid falling victim to loan sharks.

The children have designed vibrant money shark posters to warn pupils, parents and family members of the dangers of using illegal money lenders and promote the help available to victims.

The winning poster was designed by Jessica Francis in Year 4. Jessica’s poster includes messages about the importance of saving money and points people to Halton Credit Union who offer affordable loans and ethical savings.

WINNER: Jessica Francis (aged 9) is the winner of the Spot the Shark colouring competition!

Phil Hallman, Head Teacher at St Martin’s Primary School, said: “The children benefited greatly from the visit of mascot Sid the Shark. They also thoroughly enjoyed taking part in a Stop Loan Sharks poster competition. The quality of the children’s work proved how well they had taken on and understood all the messages given. It is vital that we raise awareness of pupils as well as parents so that they do not put undue pressure on their parents to buy things they cannot afford and so resort to illegal money lending. I would advise all schools to invite Sid the Shark and raise this very serious issue with their school communities.”

The posters will be on display at Halton Lea Library in Runcorn from July 12.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England IMLT said: “It is important to give pupils an understanding of the dangers of loan sharks from an early age, not only so they will share what they have learnt with their families but also so they avoid these criminals in adult life. The assemblies highlight the impact that this crime can have on our communities, showing how people are trapped into spiralling debt.

“We urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report the crime in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”

Parents are also being encouraged to get involved in the Spot the Shark campaign on Facebook.

Find out how you can enter the Spot the Shark competition and win prizes at www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject or search for the hashtag #SLSRuncorn!

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 bully tactics, such as violence, threats or intimidation to enforce repayment.

People are urged never to use unlicensed lenders who:

  • Refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how long they will be repaying for or the APR
  • Do not give paperwork.
  • Add additional charges or increase the debt.
  • Take items such as passports, bank cards or driving licences as security.
  • Appear friendly at first, but resort to violent, threatening or extreme methods when payments are not met.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 382 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 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