Mid and East Antrim partnership to focus on impact of illegal money lending

Mid and East Antrim Policing and Community Safety Partnership will shine a light on the “devastating impact” of illegal money lending at a public meeting to be held next Wednesday.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 11:24 am

The issue will be brought into focus by speakers from the PSNI and Crimestoppers charity.

The PSNI is supporting the ‘Ending the Harm’ campaign which is part of the  ‘Tackling Paramilitarism’ programme, to  raise awareness of illegal money lenders have on the community.

Speaking at the launch, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said: “This campaign highlights the devastating impact that illegal money lenders have, not only on victims, but their families, the local community and wider society.

Cash

“The people who purport to be helping people by offering them loans when they feel they have nowhere else to turn are not doing it for nothing. They will always want something in return – and I don’t just mean a hefty interest rate.

” In the long run they will want more than their money back. They will charge you exorbitant interest rates and set unrealistic pay back targets

“They will tell you that you are in their debt forever, they will threaten you and coerce you into getting involved in their criminal world, for example, they may tell you that you have to peddle their drugs for them, or ‘handle’ criminal property.

“There are obvious difficulties in getting victims of illegal money lenders to come forward due to fear but the police are far from powerless when it comes to dealing with these people who are exploiting their own communities.”

Braid Alliance Councillor David Reid, a debt counsellor, told a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council earlier this year that single parent families have been hardest hit duing the pandemic with “vulture” like illegal lenders who have “moved in to fill the void”.

He said: “I speak to many families every week who are struggling on low incomes. They are living on £90 per week, relying on food banks, they have no electricity, with rent arrears growing each month.

“This will not go away when the pandemic ends. Poverty has always been there. Covid has split those cracks even more.”

Christians Against Poverty says that low income households are twice as likely as richer ones” to have increased their debts during the Covid crisis.

Ballymena SDLP Councillor Eugene Reid brought a motion before Mid and East Antrim Borough Council urging the local authority to write to the Department for Communities to immediately convene a Child Povery Taskforce.

Cllr Reid told a recent council meeting of the “abject poverty” that exists across the borough and the “detrimental effect it has on life and on children and families”.

He noted a Department for Communities Family Resource Survey which shows that in 2018/19, 122,000 children in Northern Ireland, 24 per cent, are living in relative poverty in a household where one adult is employed and 109,000 are living in absolute poverty.

Cllr Reid stated “We need a Child Poverty Strategy but in the absence of one, we need a child poverty taskforce.”

He added: “The mental strain and stigma and stress associated with poverty and social exclusion can have a neurological impact on a child.” Click here

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been informed by the Department for Communities that work has commenced on the development of anti-poverty strategy.

The PSNI advises: “If you are in debt and feel you have nowhere to go please know that there is independent help available, Advice NI, which is an independent charity, offers confidential advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation. For totally independent advice you can contact Advice NI on 0800 915 4604.

Advice NI states: “If you can, try to avoid illegal lenders like loan sharks. They have high interest rates and some can have severe consequences if you do not repay. It would be important to try all other avenues before considering borrowing from these lenders.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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