Illegal Money Lending Team (Loan Shark Team) in Leeds

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1 Illegal Money Lending Team (Loan Shark Team) in Leeds Background The Birmingham Illegal Money Lending Team was established in 2004 as a pilot project, one of two in Great Britain; the other pilot area being Glasgow. The project was extended to Leeds in 2007, prior to the national rollout. The remit of the team is to investigate illegal money lending activity and establish if a problem exists and, if so, bring to justice those persons carrying on this activity. In March 2011 the Executive Board agreed a report to extend existing delegations to Birmingham City Council, so that arrangements with the Illegal Money Lending Project (which is operating in partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards) could continue from March 2011 to 31 March This extended a previous delegation agreed by the Executive Board in September In April 2012 Executive Board members received a progress report and endorsed a local action plan (Appendix 1). Main issues Key National Statistics Nationally, across the seven Illegal Money Lending Teams in operation: Over 2,000 illegal money lenders have been identified Over 525 illegal money lenders have been arrested an estimated 310,000 households nationally are in debt to illegal lenders Over 38.8 million worth of illegal debts have been written off (money victims would have paid back to illegal money lenders if the team had not acted) More than 200 prosecutions have been secured, leading to custodial sentences in excess of 128 years (plus an indefinite sentence) The Project has helped over 18,000 victims of loan sharks including some of the most hard to reach individuals in communities Over 1.5 million in cash has been seized More than 27 million worth of assets are being investigated (under Proceeds of Crime legislation) with the intention of removing these from illegal money lenders More than 750 victims have been referred to alternative affordable sources of financial support Work in Leeds The Loan Shark Team work closely with the Financial Inclusion Partnership in Leeds and links have been established with a wide number of organisations working in communities at risk of loan shark activity. One of the main problems faced by the team is a reluctance of residents to report loan shark activity. The provision of publicity material and delivery of presentations to front line staff, volunteers, young parents, tenants and residents is an important part of the awareness work to try to overcome this reluctance.

2 In addition to partners such as the credit union and debt advice agencies, Council service areas are fully aware of the need to report any potential loan shark activity. Services include the One Stop Centres, Corporate Debt Team, Library Services, Welfare Rights and Benefits sections. The Loan Shark Team regularly attend and report to the Financial Inclusion Steering Group, which involves all Council service areas and partners who are engaged with financial inclusion work. In Summer 2011 the Loan Shark Team decided to develop a new plan with partners in Leeds to include as many key partners as possible. This was due to the relative scarcity of information to the hotline from the city and the lack of a major prosecution. The team worked closely with representatives of the three main social landlords in the city; East North East, West North West and Aire Valley Homes as well as a Police Inspector from a local area with high deprivation and crime. A high profile campaign was developed, including targeted training and publicity, in order to raise awareness of the loan shark team and the support available. This would aim to gain momentum and increase information about illegal money lending reported to the hotline. Frontline housing staff and police were vital partners in capturing local and comprehensive information, so ongoing training for housing staff and initial briefings for Neighbourhood Policing Teams were set up. Local knowledge of partners was used to come up with other key agencies to be involved in the plan. These included Leeds City Credit Union, Advice Leeds (partnership of Leeds Advice Providers), Leeds City Council s Financial Inclusion Team and other local organisations who deal with vulnerable people in the City. An action plan with timescales was developed and is attached as Appendix 1. Local champions were identified who could open doors and advocate for Stop Loan Sharks on behalf of the team. In October 2011 illegal money lending was the focus in Seacroft as the team worked in partnership with Leeds Pubwatch, West Yorkshire Police and East North East Homes to promote the project to 800 households and over 20 licensed premises. The link up with Leeds Pubwatch has enabled dialogue with landlords at Pubwatch meetings and distribution of beermats in public houses in deprived areas of the city. The action plan will be refreshed on a regular basis and the profile of the project will continue to be raised in the city. Stronger ties will be developed with partners, including the embedding of training at West Yorkshire Police headquarters and an upcoming link into all WYP intelligence through their newly centralized intelligence unit. Investigations in Leeds In 2007 two illegal lenders operating in the Seacroft area were successfully prosecuted for their illegal lending activities. They received a suspended sentence. The reason for this sentence was because they were operating as traditional doorstep lenders but were undertaking the lending without a consumer credit licence.

3 This is illegal but they were not regarded as being typical of the potentially more violent elements normally associated with loan sharks. Currently, investigations are being concluded into alleged illegal lending activities, primarily in the North East of the city, and a man has been arrested and is currently bailed pending further investigations. No further information can be given at this stage because of the possibility of pending legal proceedings. There are also other ongoing investigations being undertaken within the city but no further information is available at the present time. How to report an illegal money lender Confidential hotline: /7 Text: loan shark + your message to Web:

4 APPENDIX 1 LEEDS ACTION PLAN Action Objectives Timescale Responsible Identify vehicles for Raise awareness with key September Magnetic Strips attached to East North East Vans in magnetic strips promoting Stop Loan Sharks members of the community Encourage community to ongoing Seacroft Area October More on order for other vehicles used by housing providers. Work on plan to get information about Stop Loan Sharks Hotline to landlords of pubs in key areas and provide beermats report intelligence Target vulnerable groups Raise awareness in alternative social setting Autumn ongoing Rolling programme of Pubwatch meetings to be addressed alongside Leeds Council Pubwatch coordinator. Landlords briefed and beermats distributed in Seacroft, North East Leeds and West Leeds areas. 5,000 beermats distributed to pubs in Seacroft as part of Operation Champion. 20 premises visited by Pubwatch co-ordinator and Police on 5 October. Other landlords visited by loan shark team member and local Police Inspector for informal chat. Briefing Note to local Councillors and MPs Tenants magazine article in all ALMO magazines Housing Staff Training Raise awareness amongst elected members of the problem and the project includes info on impact on individuals and communities Raise awareness of campaign directly to tenants at the same time Aim to train/brief as many Housing staff as possible from a range of specialisms to include staff April 2012 September 2011 follow up articles to be published in 2012 Beermats distributed to 20 premises in Beeston area in week before Christmas To go out through Leeds City Council distribution. Articles published in all three ALMO s newsletter. Follow ups due in Spring 2012 Five enhanced training sessions provided for East North East Staff Five training sessions provided to West North West Staff

5 Surestart Children s Centres info and training for staff Mental Health Teams acute wards and outreach workers briefing/training Adult Social Services briefing and training Operation Champion Get involved and promote Stop Loan Sharks as a theme via multi agency approach in as many areas as possible Customer Service Centres, ALMO joint contact centre staff and Council benefits staff briefings North East Leeds Police and Partners newsletter article Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) briefing who work out in target areas Raise awareness amongst staff within this target group Raise awareness of project amongst vulnerable groups through key staff November Moortown and Alwoodley Childrens centres have had info and training Met with Managers of Mental Health teams. Sessions arranged for crisis teams and information to be available on wards and in rehab accommodation. Information to be provided to Leeds Adult Safeguarding Board. As above Contact passed on to be actioned Target crime within hotspots Raise awareness in target areas Ensure staff working on frontline are briefed on project and know what to watch out for Article to go to large number of properties and raise awareness of the project Make sure as many neighbourhood teams as possible are briefed on the project to fit in with Community Safety Partnership October 2011 press strategy Operation Champion delivered 5 October in Seacroft 800 households leafleted. Joint doorknocking with Police and East North East staff. Operation Champion to be delivered in Halton Moor and Gipton in April 2012 to reinforce message. Briefing for One Stop Centre managers to be delivered January 2012 Loan shark team in touch with press officers at ENE homes and West Yorkshire Police to provide content through loan shark team press officer when appropriate. Briefing provided to Rothwell NPT leaflets to be distributed in Belle Isle and Middleton. Articles in Rothwell Record and Yorkshire Evening Post. Briefing provided to Outer North West Leeds NPT. Seacroft NPT teams briefed at Killingbeck Police station.

6 Outer North West Leeds NPT briefed. Other teams to be briefed on an ongoing basis negotiations to embed Stop Loan Sharks training within West Yorkshire Police core training ongoing. Link with intelligence unit at West Yorkshire Police developed. Jobcentre Plus Advice Leeds Leeds City Credit Union GIPSIL Stonham Health Fairs Money and Health Discussions with external relationship manager planned through Leeds City Council to ensure staff and claimants are aware. Also a link into Work Programme providers. Training for advisers to be arranged through Advice Leeds to brief as many advisers working in Leeds advice centres as possible Ensure all staff are briefed and publicity available in branches, in communications and website is up to date Info provided by ENE staff about this organisation working with young, vulnerable people ENE staff make referrals to Stonham when there are debts and other issues December 2011 March 2012 Contacts provided, to be actioned Lunchtime briefing session for Advice Leeds partners provided. Session for Leeds CAB volunteers delivered. Presentation to full team meeting of LCCU to ensure all staff know what to look for Session delivered on 20 December for GIPSIL staff Contact Stonham to arrange to brief staff and distribute publicity. Ensure publicity is available at these and attend where possible to speak to local organisations

7 Housing Solutions/ Homelessness team - sessions to be set up to ensure staff working in this area know about project and how to refer strong evidence in other areas of individuals and families fleeing properties due to loan sharks and presenting as homeless March 2012 Parnership session organised by West Yorkshire Police and partners to provide info to Migrant Communities, Feb 2012 Contacts to be identified and action undertaken Community Loan Shark Advocates sessions to be delivered in target areas Session set up in collaboration with Migration Partnership at Adult Social Care and Chapeltown CAB to target established and new arrival communities in Leeds. Four sessions set for March 2012

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