Join the fight against loan sharks

Church community hubs in East Kent received awareness training to help empower them against loan sharks.

27 January 2017

Church community hubs across the Diocese have received awareness training from the England Illegal Money Lending team in January to help empower them, and vulnerable residents in their communities, against loan sharks. Training took place in Sittingbourne, and then at All Saint’s Church in Canterbury, and the Newington Green Shelter based at St. Christopher’s Church, Newington in Ramsgate.

The Diocese has also joined seven other partners working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to increase awareness of the dangers of illegal money lenders by signing a zero tolerance pledge and taking part in training.

The charter was signed by Rt Rev Trevor Willmott the Bishop of Dover at Swale Borough Council on Monday 16 January, alongside the Swale Community Safety Partnership, AmicusHorizon, Citizens Advice Swale, Seashells (Children and Families Ltd), Murston Community Hub, Together Canterbury and Kent Savers Credit Union.

The training is being delivered by the England Illegal Money Lending Unit and has been made available to volunteers and clergy from the Dioceses’ five community hubs, as well as other community frontline staff and advocates.

The aim of the training is to help identify and support victims of loan sharks. With an estimated £325,000 borrowed last year from loan sharks and £700,000 paid back, Bishop Trevor Willmott said the extent of the problem was clear:

“Debt, like the loan sharks who prey on the desperation of others, is a scourge on our society and should not exist.  As the Church of Jesus Christ, our commitment is that wherever someone is in debt and isolated, we will be there to support and value them, but we know this is only possible through working with others.

“I am therefore hugely grateful to the England Illegal Money Lending team who will be delivering awareness training to our church-based Community Hubs. Not only will it greatly empower their work, but the lives of those who they meet with on a daily basis that are struggling to make ends meet, and who desperately need alternative solutions to their financial problems.”

Keith Berry from Together Canterbury, a joint partnership between Church Urban Fund and the Diocese of Canterbury, said that rolling the training out across all the hubs would ensure a united response to loan sharks:

“A loan shark can have a devastating impact on a community and an individual. The training, along with our face-to face access to Kent Savers Credit Union, signposting to a variety of services, and a non-judgemental listening ear, mean our church community hubs can really enable people to start dealing with the personal, social and financial challenges they are facing.”                                               

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

“Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. These lenders may appear to be offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford. Many are subjected to threats, violence or other callous enforcement methods.

“We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them on 0300 555 2222. Your call will be dealt in the strictest confidence by one of our trained officers.”

Loan sharks will often target people who are on low incomes, as well as those who may, for various reasons, struggle to obtain credit from legitimate sources.  At this time of year, as credit card statements appear and the true cost of Christmas becomes clear, cash from a loan shark can look appealing.

Anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark, or knows of someone who has, can contact the Illegal Money Lending Team in the following ways: