Headlines: February 16th, 2007

FINANCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY HITS LOAN SHARKS

 

Two pilot teams from the Department of Trade and Industry, working with local Trading Standards officers in Birmingham and Glasgow have identified over 200 loan sharks and saved more than 3 million pounds from the pockets of their victims. Tackling illegal lending is part of the strategic cross-government approach to consumer debt.

About 165,000 households in the UK use illegal money lenders. As many as half of these are in the poorest parts of the country, often concentrated in the most deprived urban housing estates, where legal alternatives are hardest to access. Illegal moneylenders operate where there is a high proportion of rented accommodation and target the most vulnerable, such as single mothers on benefits, drug addicts and people with mental health issues.

The work of the DTI teams has benefited 1765 victims of the loan sharks. They have also recovered 1m pounds from the assets of illegal lenders with a further 1m pounds more, likely to be collected pending court cases. They have unearthed crimes including kidnapping, counterfeiting, assault, wounding, blackmail and sexual intimidation. Offences relating to benefit and mortgage fraud have also been discovered.

The work of the teams in Birmingham and Glasgow will continue for a further year and teams will be set up in Liverpool, Sheffield and West Yorkshire. The loan shark campaign will be rolled out to the rest of England and Wales in 2007-08.

The strategy to tackle financial exclusion includes a Financial Inclusion Fund and a Financial Inclusion Taskforce to oversee progress on improving access to banking services, affordable credit and free face to face money advice. The Task Force includes representatives from banks, building societies, local authorities, housing associations and the voluntary sector.

The latest initiative to help people on low incomes become more financially secure, ‘Now let’s talk money’ was launched earlier this month by the Department for Work and Pensions and partner organisations The campaign will bring together the complimentary skills of the finance, voluntary and local government sectors to work more closely and invest resources into making a difference. It will support partner organisations such as Citizens Advice nwho work with financially excluded people.