A week of action to help people protect themselves against loan sharks is taking place in Cumbria.
This year, the week is aimed at those working in the health and care sectors, where loan sharks have been known to operate, targeting the most vulnerable.
There will be a host of events raising awareness of how to spot the signs of a loan shark, where to go for help, and the work of credit unions as an alternative to illegal lenders.
The week runs from Monday, October 16 to Friday, October 20. It will include an open day on Tuesday, October 17, at Whitehaven United Reformed Church from 10am to noon, when Cumberland Council leader Councillor Mark Fryer and deputy leader Councillor Emma Williamson will be signing a charter pledging Zero Tolerance of Loan Sharks.
The week is being organised by the England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Whitehaven, Egremont and District Credit Union.
Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “We have had cases of illegal lenders operating within the health and care sectors and we want people to know that these criminals can crop up anywhere.
“We’re delighted to be working with our partners to combat loan sharks who are a blight on our communities and make their victims’ lives a misery.”
Nikki Bates, development manager at Whitehaven, Egremont and District Credit Union, said: “Many people work in the health and care sector for the love of helping others and not the pay.
“As the cost of living continues to bite, many in these roles are now struggling to support themselves and are seeing the same situations for the people they care for.
“We believe that the work we do in partnership with the Illegal Money Lending team is vital in supporting our communities.
“Events such as the week of action help to shine a light on the harmful impact for the victims of loan sharks, in the hope that local organisations are made aware of the signs to look out for and how to report any suspected loan shark activity.”
Also involved in the week of action are: Cumbria Police, Cumbria Citizens Advice, West Cumbria Carers, Eden Medical Group, Cumberland Council, Job Centre Plus/DWP, NHS and Whitehaven United Reformed Church.
As part of the week, people over the age of 18, who live in Cumberland and work or volunteer in the care sector are encouraged to sign up for a special credit union incentive scheme – if they save £25 over three months, the IMLT will match the £25 they save and put it in their account.
Anyone who thinks they may have been the victim of a loan shark, is urged to contact the IMLT in confidence by calling the 24/7 hotline on 0300 555 2222. Reports can also be made via the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk, where there is a live chat facility.
For more information about the Whitehaven, Egremont and District Credit Union visit wedcu.co.uk