FAMILIES in Birkenhead have been learning about the dangers of loan sharks as part of a community arts and crafts project.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – worked with Wirral Methodist Housing Association to deliver a series of drop-in art workshops for parents and children to show off their creative skills at Beaconsfield Community House.

Attendees designed sharks of all shapes and sizes, including shark windsocks, peg sharks and newspaper sharks.

Each piece of art was labelled with contact information for the IMLT in case parents are in the grip of a loan shark and need confidential help.

The ‘Don’t Get Bitten by a Loan Shark’ workshops attracted 45 children between the ages of three to 12 years old.

The project and materials used for the workshops were funded by the IMLT using proceeds of crime money.

The objective of the community scheme is to warn residents about the dangers of using loan sharks in the lead up to Christmas.

Community liaison officer for Wirral Methodist Housing Association Jill Carter said: “The arts and crafts workshops were a real success, many families took the important loan shark messages home with them.

"We believe that artwork has more longevity than an information flyer or leaflet as the decorative piece can be placed on a fridge or shelf, so it will serve as a constant reminder of the dangers of using loan sharks.

"We are aware illegal money lending happens in all different communities, with Birkenhead maybe being one, so we are keen to raise continual awareness of this under-reported crime.”

Nationally Illegal Money Lending teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences.

They have also written off £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 people.

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We’re pleased to be working with Wirral Methodist Housing Association to raise awareness of loan sharks to families in Birkenhead.

“Our aim is to steer parents away from using loan sharks in the run up to Christmas and warn them that borrowing from unlicensed lenders could bring great misery to their lives. "

If you are already using a loan shark, we urge you to seek help by contacting us on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk