WALTHAMSTOW: MP shocked by 'legal loan shark' school involvement (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAMSTOW: MP shocked by 'legal loan shark' school involvement
WALTHAMSTOW MP Stella Creasy says she is shocked that staff from a high cost lending firm helped to teach pupils about debt advice.
Workers at The Money Shop were invited into classrooms at Holy Family Technology College in Walthamstow last week as part of a scheme organised by the Young Enterprise charity.
It came just days before Ms Creasy protested against the chain outside one of its branches in Walthamstow High Street alongside London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.
The Labour MP is campaigning for a limit on fees charged by such firms, which she describes as "legal loan sharks", arguing they prey on the poor by providing quick cash with extortionate charges and rates of interest.
Companies such as The Money Shop have always strongly denied her claims and say any cap would make people turn to unscrupulous illegal lenders instead.
In a statement released late last night, Ms Creasy said: "I know many parents in Walthamstow who share my concerns about legal loan sharking will be shocked to find a charity such as young enterprise letting these companies into our schools and so helping them to promote themselves as socially responsible.
"Until this industry is regulated properly through caps on the costs of credit they have no place in our education system - and I hope young enterprise will think again before allowing their good work to be associated with such firms."
The day-long event on Monday (February 6) at the school in Shernhall Street involved 180 year 9 pupils aged 13 and 14, and included activities such as mock interviews.
Assistant headteacher Adele Klitou said in a statement that the 'Learn to Earn' scheme closely supported the curriculum.
Young Enterprise manager for Waltham Forest, Helen Wedderburn, said Money Shop staff had been very informative and were keen to work with other schools in the area.
"They want to continue their work to help students with the world of work, the pitfalls of finance and getting into debt. They've been very supportive," she added.
The charity responded to criticisms from Ms Creasy on its nationwide Twitter page by calling her comments "weird and untrue" but later appeared to acknowledge its involvement with Money Shop.
It said all companies it worked with were "explicitly banned...from promoting products or services".
The charity's chief executive, Catherine Marchant, later denied Money Shop staff gave lessons in finance.
She said: "The Learn to Earn programme challenges students to examine what skills and talents they have got, examine the feasibility of various lifestyles, research future employment opportunities and start planning for tomorrow.
"The programme was taught by a Young Enterprise manager, not the volunteers. The volunteers simply sit alongside students and help them work through a set booklet.
"The claims that are being made are unfounded."
Young Enterprise has now severed all ties with the Money Shop and its parent company Dollar Financial UK following the criticisms.
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