Hollywood actor takes aim at legal loan sharks

Third Force News, by Gareth Jones 


Hollywood actor Michael Sheen has taken aim at high-interest lenders.

The Frost Nixon star headed to Glasgow today to launch the End High Cost Credit Alliance, which aims to promote more affordable ways of lending money and to combat companies which have been accused of trading in misery and being no better than legal loan sharks.

The group will bring charities, politicians and tech companies together to create a social movement that will invest in non-profit companies.

Sheen – who is patron of Social Enterprise UK – said that the alliance aims to compete and win against high-cost lenders who target those unable to borrow from mainstream banks.

“I’ve become increasingly aware of friends and family dealing with being in debt – with overdrafts, credit card payments, pay day loans, home credit,” he said.

“It’s a really hard subject to talk about but I’ve had friends breaking down in tears talking about how it is affecting their relationship, their self-esteem, their children’s lives. It touches buttons about your own sense of dignity and pride.”

The initiative aims to focus on helping those who are excluded from mainstream credit, and see high-cost credit as the most attractive alternative.

Scotcash, a Glasgow-based organisation that offers affordable loans to customers who have limited alternatives, is one of the partners that have signed up, alongside larger groups such as the Carnegie UK Trust and StepChange Debt Charity.

Scotcash chief executive Sharon MacPherson said: “The staff are all very excited about Michael’s visit. He is one of the UK’s most critically acclaimed actors and coming to Glasgow gives a voice to what Scotcash and others in across the country are doing to tackle financial exclusion and the poverty premium”.

The actor has pledged to invest his own money in the campaign and said that further investment from philanthropists could be sought.

More than seven million households turned to high-cost credit such as doorstep lenders or rent-to-own firms last year.

Sheen said that he is planning on giving less focus to his acting career to focus on the campaign, and said that a pragmatic approach would be taken to helping those in debt.

“With the platform I can bring, alongside that of existing alliance members, we aim to lead a national debate on the changes needed in business, politics and society,” he said.

“It’s time to have a national conversation about the use of credit, how it can be delivered in a way that helps not hinders our daily lives, health and wellbeing.”