PUPILS at a South Tyneside school have performed their own version of the festive favourite A Christmas Carol to help warn parents about loan sharks.
Youngsters at Harton Primary School in South Shields took to the stage to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal money lenders.
Year 5 students spent three days with Liverpool-based Altru Drama Group working on a script and discussing how to spot loan sharks.
They then performed their play to mums, dads and fellow pupils.
Steph Robson, Year 5 teacher at the East Avenue school, said: “I think the children gained a lot from this experience, and have learned things which will hopefully stay with them.
“As well as it being educational, they all had great fun performing the play in front of an audience.”
The project also saw involvement from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (EIMLT) – which specialise in investigating unlicensed lenders – and housing provider Affinity Sutton.
It’s hoped the children will help their parents stay away from being tempted by the loan sharks in the run-up to Christmas, and will themselves avoid them as they grow up.
Research has revealed that an estimated 310,000 households in England turned to loan sharks this year, with 20 per cent originally borrowing to pay for the festive period.
The EIMLT group, which works in partnership with South Tyneside Trading Standards, is warning people to avoid unlicensed lenders at all costs.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “Illegal money lenders prey on the most vulnerable members of society.
“Typically, they are people on low incomes, with poor credit ratings or without access to bank accounts.
“This play is a very effective and powerful way of helping children to learn about this subject, and we hope the messages we are trying to get across will stay in their minds for years to come.”
Tony Quigley, head of the EIMLT, said “With Christmas approaching we would like to send a clear message that loan sharks are criminals and will not be tolerated.
“They are not offering a community service, and you could end up repaying what may seem like a small loan well into the New Year and beyond.”
To report a loan shark, call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222, text ‘loan shark and a message to 60003 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @ ShieldsGazVez