A number of organisations in County Durham are working together to fight against loan sharks.
Loan sharks are illegal, unlicensed money lenders who charge very high rates of interest. They often target the most desperate and vulnerable members of the community.
This is an especially serious issue in the north east, which has the UK’s highest proportion of indebted people. Less than half of people in the region have more than £100 in savings and so would struggle if faced with a job loss or other financial emergency.
Several organisations have teamed up to warn people of the dangers of loan sharks and advise them about better, more responsible sources of credit.
These organisations include the Durham Savers Project – a council-led scheme which aims to encourage more sustainable financial habits – as well as Durham Constabulary, NE First Credit Union and Karbon Homes. Also involved are Durham County Council’s Area Action Partnerships; the Illegal Money Lending Team; and the Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg.
The organisations also aim to help those who have already been targeted by loan sharks.
Staff from the Durham Savers Project were in Chester-le-Street last week, visiting community groups to inform people about alternatives to loan sharks and different ways to save and manage money.
Durham County Council’s cabinet member for social inclusion, Cllr Jane Brown, said, “It is vital that we support our residents to help them stay away from loan sharks.”
“By engaging with our Durham Savers Project, everyone can save regularly and borrow sensibly using their local credit union and avoid high-cost credit providers.”
“The Durham Savers Project will be engaging with local schools and their staff to host money-saving events and introduce children’s savings clubs.”
“This will support the community by helping young people learn about money and raising awareness of the alternatives to high-interest debt.”
“This project is also working with local businesses to introduce savings schemes at work, helping them to fulfil their corporate social responsibilities whilst supporting staff.”
“We would encourage any resident with information on loan shark activity to report it via the confidential telephone line or website (below).”
You can report loan sharks by telephoning 0300 555 2222 or visiting www.stoploansharks.co.uk/.
Ron Hogg said, “I give my full support to initiatives such as this as they are an excellent example of partners working together. Illegal loan sharks create fear and prey on vulnerable residents.”
“A zero-tolerance approach will help us to create safer neighbourhoods and stop residents living in fear.”
To learn more about the work of the Durham Savers Project, please visit http://www.durham.gov.uk/durhamsavers.
(The featured image shows Ron Hogg with Durham’s Chief Constable Mike Barton and staff from Durham Constabulary and the Durham Savers Project.)