Sheffield Credit Union launches new scheme to deter people from using loan sharks

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Residents in Sheffield at risk of turning to loan sharks are being urged to turn elsewhere for help.

Scores of people in Sheffield turn to illegal money lenders but are unaware of the dangers of getting involved with them, such as kidnapping, wounding and rape.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is working in partnership with Sheffield Credit Union to promote saving and highlight the legal alternatives available for borrowing money.

They are using proceeds of crime money, confiscated from convicted loan sharks, to sponsor new credit union accounts in a bid to get more people to use them.

The first 50 residents to open a Christmas Saver account and save at least £10 will be awarded with a £10 savings boost straight into their account before Christmas, if they continue to save and do not withdraw the funds until at least October 31.

Jackie Hallewell, chief executive at Sheffield Credit Union said: “One of the biggest barriers to people using credit union services instead of loan sharks is a lack of knowledge about how easy it is to save and borrow with Sheffield Credit Union.

"This initiative will help to raise awareness, encourage more people to join and prevent people from falling victim of loan sharks in the future.”

Sheffield Council has also developed a Financial Inclusion Plan to help tackle financial exclusion and debt.

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for community services, said the authority is ‘absolutely determined to tackle the blight of loan sharking in our communities’.

He added: "Our Financial Inclusion Plan is about people being able to get a fair deal with their finances.

"It’s part of our work to help make Sheffield the fairest city, and help those most in need.

"The plan commits the council and its partners to providing more information to people, promoting access to affordable credit, providing welfare and debt advice to the people who need it most and embedding this work into all of our actions aimed at tackling poverty."

The council has also launched a scheme with the IMLT which gives local groups the chance to bid for cash which has been confiscated from illegal money lenders.

The Your Choice scheme is offering three £750 pots of proceeds of crime money to fund projects in Sheffield.

Groups are being invited to apply for the cash if their project contributes to raising the awareness of the dangers of using loan sharks, promotes professional credit options to people at risk of using loan sharks, promotes financial management or budgeting to people at risk or reduces crime, disorder and illegal money lending in their area.

Tony Quigley, head of service for the IMLT, said: "Illegal money lenders are scourge on our communities, and can have a hugely detrimental impact on the lives of their victims.

“Through schemes such as this, we are able to use this money for something positive and help to prevent these criminals from operating in the future."

Applicants have until 12pm on Friday, March 31 to place their bids.