MEMBERS of a community group working to highlight the dangers of illegal money lenders were rewarded for their efforts today (Wednesday February 6).

Members of the West Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Trust – who work in partnership with Middlesbrough Council – were presented with an award honouring their “exceptional” work in raising awareness of illegal money lenders.

The group beat off more than 100 submissions to be crowned National Winner in the England Illegal Money Lending Team’s first ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ awards.

For their outstanding work, the group also received £5,000 of cash that had been seized from convicted loan sharks under proceeds of crime legislation.

The cash will be used in a variety of ways. ‘Walker Talkers’ will be employed who will target key areas and engage with local residents to address the issues surrounding illegal money lending and to point them towards relevant support services.

The money will also be used to fund sessions with substance misuse service ‘Lifeline’ which offers information on the dangers of loan sharks and advice on accessing affordable credit.

Sandra Phillips, Chief Executive of the WMNT, said: “We are delighted to be involved in such an important project. We understand how financial pressures can force people to become victims of loan sharks and how easily debts can spiral out of control.

“We hope that by raising awareness of the dangers of dealing with loan sharks and providing information about alternative sources of credit, we can prevent more people falling victim to these predators.”