STAFF from various organisations and agencies are now more able to help customers in the grip of loan sharks thanks to specialist training.

More than 100 members of staff from 19 organisations and agencies, including West Mercia Police, Bromsgrove District Council, Redditch Borough Council and Age UK, took part in ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ awareness training at Bromsgrove District Council House, Redditch Town Hall and Redditch Police Station between January and May.

The training, run by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, showed frontline staff what signs to look out for and how to recognise the symptoms and effects of illegal money lending when dealing with customers; equipping them to deal with these situations appropriately and sensitively.

Alasdair Baker, community safety project officer for Redditch and Bromsgrove councils, said: “Very often victims of loan sharks are unwilling to come forward about their circumstances and therefore it makes it very hard to help them.

"The training session was a real eye-opener and I now feel more confident that I would be able to identify illegal money lending issues amongst the individuals and families I work with.”

Tony Quigley, head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We are really pleased to be working in partnership with the Community Safety Team at Bromsgrove District Council and Redditch Borough Council to highlight the dangers and support residents who can be vulnerable to loan sharks.”

Residents who believe they may be involved with a loan shark or suspect that one is operating in their area, can report it to the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), which is part of Trading Standards, by calling 0300 555 2222, emailing or texting ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003.