Lewisham Plus Credit Union have joined the battle against the growing menace of loan sharks, amid concerns more people are falling prey to unscrupulous lenders in the community.

The credit union is working in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and Engage, the UK’s largest and most established provider of community banking solutions, to launch a new ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ project to help tackle the scourge of illegal money lending.

The key aims of the project are to provide local residents with essential guidance on how to avoid illegal lending practices, as well as support for the victims of loan sharks and a pathway to more affordable, ethical loans via Lewisham Plus Credit Union.

Residents may be at risk of using loan sharks due to the lack of banking facilities, therefore Lewisham Plus will also offer Engage Accounts and contactless debit cards to those without bank accounts, with fees subsidised by IMLT.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We are pleased to be working with Lewisham Plus Credit Union and Engage to offer residents a safe and ethical way to save money regularly, as well as borrow affordably and responsibly. This new initiative will play a key role in building financial resilience in the community and will help people avoid illegal money lenders.”

The project has been funded from cash recovered from loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

Ravi Ravindran, CEO of Lewisham Plus added: “During a time of hardship, unregulated loans appear to be a quick solution to financial problems, but charges quickly spiral out of control. The Stop Loan Shark project will promote an ethical, affordable alternative source of lending via the Credit Union to all in the community”.

The Stop loan sharks initiative launches in January and will run for an initial period of 12 months.

Geoff Leech, Managing Director of Engage commented: “Our work across communities in the UK means we see first-hand the struggles and pressures faced by victims of illegal lending. Our partnership with Lewisham Plus and IMLT will bring hope to those who feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of debt and despair”.

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