A LANDLORD has signed up to a campaign to shut out loan sharks.
Cestria Community Housing has become the first organisation in County Durham to become an official partner of the England Illegal Money Lending Team.
The association’s first initiative to ward off loan sharks by encouraging tenants to sign up to the local credit union and save money for Christmas, has been hailed a success.
More than 30 tenants who rent from the landlord in the Chester-le-Street area have signed up to the scheme.
Anyone who saves for nine out of 10 months will get a £20 voucher in December, and be eligible to take out low-interest loan.
More projects are planned throughout the year, in the hope the social landlord can help families targeted by loan sharks by offering alternative solutions.
Suzanne Jobson, Cestria’s financial inclusion officer, said: “Loan sharks trap borrowers into a never-ending spiral of debt, often resorting to extreme methods such as intimidation, threats and violence to enforce repayment.
“At Cestria, we are determined to do everything we can to target these criminals, and have teamed up with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to help us achieve this in our district.”
The team offers free training sessions to help organisations in the community spot illegal money lenders, and organise events to get to know residents.
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “The work with our campaign partners is vitally important.
“These organisations are our eyes and ears on the ground, so their local knowledge, combined with the team’s expertise, allows our work to continue to grow in strength and brings offenders to justice.”
Residents in Peterlee are also launching their own efforts to ward off illegal money lenders.
Eden Lane Community Facility hosted a meeting for those who wanted information on the dangers of high-interest loans, legal and illegal. A credit union is also run on the estate.
The session was supported by East Durham Trust, with funding from the Illegal Money Lending Team.
Victims of illegal money lending can contact the team on 0300 555 2222, text Loan Shark to 60003, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks