Stop Loan Sharks

Stop Loan Sharks  … Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly. Micah 6:8

Easy credit has turned Britain into a nation of debtors and we are currently £158billion in the red.  According to the BBC, nine million of us have serious financial problems due to personal borrowing, resulting in vulnerable members of the community turning to controversial loan sharks to make ends meet.

In February, in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) I’ve invited church leaders and their congregations, our Community Projects, Credit Unions, Debt Advice agencies, and their partners across our diocese to take part in a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of borrowing money from illegal money lenders, more commonly known as loan sharks. This is in response to the plight of individuals and families whose lives are being destroyed by the illegal and threatening practices of loan sharks to enforce repayments. Loan sharks charge enormous interest rates, which leaves families in severe debt or poverty, causing misery and destroying lives.  

Over 310,000 households across the UK are affected by illegal money lending. The current public demand for quick cash has seen the sudden rise in unscrupulous loan sharks, whose loans are costing residents dearly. Loan sharks charge exorbitant rates of interest and use bullying tactics such as threats, intimidation and violence to enforce repayments from borrowers. 

Emma initially borrowed £500 and ended up paying back a staggering £128,000 to a ruthless loan shark. She lost her home and was pushed to the brink of suicide. I believe deeply that Christians should be involved, and we should be involved with passion and commitment; this is about more than just money, it’s about a just society and about the common good. Archdeacon Simon Burton-Jones said “As Christians, we believe deeply in the equality of all people, and the way we express the goodness of God is by offering the most protection to the people who are most vulnerable.”

A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority. If payments are missed, loan sharks will often resort to bullying tactics such as intimidation and violence to enforce repayments from their borrowers.

Residents are urged to never to use an illegal money lender who:

  • Offers little or no paperwork, such as a credit agreement or record of payments.
  • Increases the debt or adds additional amounts to the loan at random.
  • Refuses to give you information, such as the interest rate on the loan or the amount of how much you still owe.
  • Takes personal items from you as security, such as a passport, bank card or driving license.
  • Never allows you to settle your debt.
  • Gets nasty by using intimidation and threats.
  • Threatens you and your family if you can’t pay.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) can provide help and guidance if you have:

  • been offered a cash loan without any paperwork attached to it.
  • been threatened when you couldn't pay.
  • had your bank card been taken from you as “security”.
  • a debt which keeps growing even though you’re making regular payments.

If you, or someone you know has been a victim of a loan shark, you can make a report to the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT)

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24 hour hotline on 0300 555 2222

Text a report to 07860022116

Email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

Complete an online report form at www.stoploansharks.co.uk

Private message the team at www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

A recent BBC documentary called The War on Loan Sharks, interviewed a man who had been a victim of a loan shark victim for 3 years. He said “The first time I met him; he came across as somebody that wanted to be your friend, not just someone who was helping you. Then it got nasty because we weren’t paying back the exact amount because interest kept getting added on: threats started to be issued that the windows would get put through.  At times there was spit coming out of his mouth when he was talking, and it just affected me so much:  I was scared about what was going to happen. I sat down in the chair one morning with my phone in one hand with details to ring the illegal money lending team, and a pile of pills on the other side, and it was a toss-up which to do.  There is always another option: stay away from loan sharks because they’re nothing but poison.” 

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have helped over 26,000 victims of illegal money lending.  Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “We will continue to work to combat loan sharks.  They can cause untold misery to the most disadvantaged in our communities.  We would urge anyone with information about loan sharking or victims of loan sharks to contact the team on 0300 555 2222.”

In our diocese we support several agencies offering debt advice, bringing good news, hope and freedom to people living with debt:  these include West Kent Debt Advice, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and CMA. CAP is a national award winning charity releasing people from a life sentence of poverty, debt, unemployment and addiction. They provide free debt counselling, job seeker support and help with life controlling dependencies: there are five centres in our diocese.  CAP Bromley Manager, Rachel Williams, told me “People use loan sharks because they think this is their only option, their only way out of debt.  However, there is always another way and we at Christians Against Poverty offer a free debt counselling service.  I’m really pleased that our diocese is raising awareness about this important issue.” 

We also support our four Credit Unions:  Martin Kingman, President of Kent Savers Credit Union said “Credit Unions are financial co-operatives and provide savings accounts, loans and related services to their members.  We are authorised and regulated by Government who provide our license to operate; loans sharks are of course acting outside the law. We also encourage our members to build up savings to give them protection against unexpected bills, including our popular Christmas savings account.”

How you can get involved: 

Here are some suggestions, but please feel free to do your own thing and let me know:   we would love to put your event and photos on our Facebook page and website.

  • Show our film in your church or school, and share it with your family, friends and colleagues. https://vimeo.com/199562620
  • Get your friends together and give out the flyers in your local area, shops, etc.
  • Attend one of the events:  see our website for details.
  • If you show the film or plan to do an event, please let me know so that we can publicise it for you, and do send in your photos (with permission) for our website and facebook page. 
  • You may also like to check out the Stop Loan Sharks page on www.stoploansharks.co.uk www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject www.twitter.com/loansharknews 

I hope that our Stop Loan Sharks campaign will encourage all of us to raise awareness about the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks, and get the message out there that there are other options and places to get help, advice and to report a loan shark.   I wanted to run the campaign during February because it’s a month that many people associate with Love and expressing our love for others: in this small but important way we will be able to share and express God’s love and concern for the most vulnerable in our communities, and we will be able to say that we did this together.


Sundays in February:
•    the film will be shown at various churches on all the Sundays in Feb, and leaflets given out, including St Marks Church Bromley, Bromley Baptist Church, St Nicholas Church Chislehurst, All Saints Chatham, Holy Family Ifield, St Andrews Paddock Wood, St John the Baptist Wateringbury, St John the Baptist Wateringbury St James the Great East Malling St George's  Church Weald St Nicholas Church Strood All Saints Church Frindsbury St Francis Church Weald Medway Public Health.
•    West Kent Debt Advice will be distributing leaflets after the film at St Stephens Church, Tonbridge.
 ‘Debt Sunday’ 12th Feb and Half Term wc 13th Feb:  Sid the Shark will be joining us to meet, greet and give out leaflets!
•  13 -14 Feb at Strood High Str (Lunch time) Sid the Shark will be joining us to meet, greet and give out leaflets!
•  18 Feb at Tonbridge High Str Sid the Shark will be joining us to meet, greet and give out leaflets!
•    the diocesan Youth Council and Sid the Shark will be doing an awareness presentation during the service  at St Mark’s Church Gillingham, with guest Deputy Mayor,  Cllr Gloria Opara.
•    CAP Manager Ruth Millard will be talking at St Justus Church, Rochester.
•    CAP Manager Rachel Williams will be talking at St John’s Church, Penge.
•    Film showing at St George’s Church, Weald.
•    Sid the Shark will be on Strood High Street with Strood Community Project and guests.
•    Sid the Shark will be on Tonbridge High Street.
•    Film showing at Mens and Women’s Fellowship at St Philips Church, Tonbridge
19th Feb:  Awareness event at St John’s Church, Welling.
28th Feb:  the Youth Council will be raising awareness at St Philip and St James Church, Walderslade (Pip and Jim’s) Pancake Party with Archdeacon Simon Burton-Jones.
Do come along and join us.

 

Diocesan Community Engagement Advisor
CreditWise Team Leader

Messy Church co-ordinator
Caroline Clarke
Tel: : 01634 560000
Email:  caroline.clarke@rochester.anglican.org




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