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Seized loanshark cash used in Whitechapel school to teach families how to avoid illegal money lenders

PUBLISHED: 14:42 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:41 03 November 2017

Parents perform poetry at Stewart Headlam School from what they've learned about avoiding loansharks. Picture: Touchstone

Parents perform poetry at Stewart Headlam School from what they've learned about avoiding loansharks. Picture: Touchstone

Touchstone

Profits from illegal loan sharks in East London have been used to teach parents at a Tower Hamlets school how to avoid borrowing from unscrupulous money lenders.

Parents who completed Touchstone's nine-week awareness course on avoiding illegal money lenders. Picture: Black Royal Media Parents who completed Touchstone's nine-week awareness course on avoiding illegal money lenders. Picture: Black Royal Media

The project run by Touchstone Creative Arts using £3,860 ‘proceeds of crime’ cash to teach them how to deal with loan sharks.

The community organisation, which helps people out of work back into jobs, has been working with the National Trading Standards Board’s ‘illegal money lending’ investigators, with money confiscated from loan sharks under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act.

“We used this money to run a creative writing course making parents aware of illegal money lending,” Touchstone’s Priscilla Joseph revealed.

“The course showed parents the legal lenders available so they never have to turn to loan sharks.”

The parents staged poetry and performances at the school about debt and illegal money lending from the information they learnt during the nine-week course.

The course makes them aware of loan sharks and where to get professional help if faced with money troubles, such as credit unions, Citizens Advice and Toynbee Hall’s debt management service.

An estimated 310,000 households up and down the country are borrowing from loan sharks, often at exorbitant interest rates which trap them in a spiral of debt. They risk intimidation, threats and even ‘strong arm’ tactics for repayments.

National Trading Standards’ Tony Quigley said: “People shouldn’t fall victim to this despicable crime, but be aware of safe and ethical loans. The creative pieces that parents at Stewart Headlam School created were excellent.”

Investigators including trading standards officers, police, debt advice and victim support specialists working with National Trading Standards have secured 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and written off £72 millions worth of illegal debt, using the money for debt-awareness projects like Touchstone’s course at Stewart Headlam School.

Victims’ hotline 0300 555 2222, calls handled by a trained officer, or online, all information in strict confidence.

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