Debt and Mental Health

Overview

Many people in debt are identified as suffering from depression & stress. If you feel that you cannot cope with these feelings, we recommend that you seek support as soon as possible from a professional. Your General Practitioner & other medical professionals can offer valuable medical help . The mental health charity MIND state that:

“Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year”.

“In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week”.

“The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope”.

“It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing”.

Supporting you with your debt

If you are experiencing a mental health issue this does not automatically mean you cannot deal with your debts yourself, but it can make it more difficult and you may benefit from extra support. Mental Health UK advise that “Money issues are widespread with nearly 3 in 10 (27%) of people have struggled to pay bills or rent”. Mental Health UK estimates that four million people in the UK are at risk of mental health issues because they’re having financial difficulties.

Debt advice

It is better to speak to a debt specialist as soon as possible, but remember it is never too late to deal with your debt problems, no matter how impossible your situation seems. An experienced debt specialist will be able to discuss several options and ways in which you can deal with your debts. For example this may be negotiating a repayment plan or a more formal way of clearing your debts If you choose to disclose your mental health issues, you will be treated fairly, sensitively and the details you provide will be treated confidentially.

Dealing with creditors

If you feel confident enough, you may want to contact your creditors , explaining that you are experiencing mental health issues, this may help with your negotiations and depending on the particular debt issue you may be offered breathing space whilst you seek specialist advice.

Creditors and the law

It is essential that creditors comply with the law. For some individuals experiencing a mental health condition you will be offered protection by the Equality Act 2010. This act stipulates that creditors must make reasonable adjustments to help you. Most creditors will also have their own rules and guidelines to follow when dealing with customers who need extra support.

There are numerous ways that a creditor can help you, for example:

  • Agree to put collection activity on hold for a short period
  • Arrange to contact you at specific times only
  • Agree to contact you in a way you prefer, such as by letter rather than phone
  • Give you extra time to obtain information
  • Make an agreement not to pass your debt to a debt collection agency
  • Ensure that their specialist staff/team deal with your case only

If you want a third party, support worker, adviser or relative or friend, to deal with your creditors on your behalf you will have to give consent. By law, your creditors will need your permission before they can discuss your details with anyone. Creditors usually require this in writing or by completing a form, which they will provide you.

MALG Debt & Mental Health Evidence Form

The Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form (DMHEF) is a standard form that can be used to ask health and social care professionals for evidence of your circumstances.

The BMA has made a commitment that GP's and health professionals should not charge for completing the form, visit the BMA website for more information.

Once completed, it can be photocopied and sent to all of your creditors. The DMHEF does not have to be accepted by your creditors, however it is recognisable by the majority of creditors and by the FCA which is the organisation in charge of regulating the credit industry. Your mental health issues may be seriously affecting how you deal and handle your money and debts and the creditors may need evidence to support what you are saying. The form has been designed to ensure that evidence of your situation is transferred to your creditors in a straightforward manner.

Mental Health & Debt write-off

The DMHEF can sometimes be used as evidence to support your case when asking for your debt to be written off. Writing off a debt is usually only done as a last resort and where you can evidence you have no surplus income or assets. However, where your circumstances are unlikely to improve creditors may consider doing so.

The Good Practice Awareness Guidelines for helping consumers with mental health conditions and debt was produced by the Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG), guidelines suggest that creditors should consider writing off unsecured debts when mental health conditions are long-term and where there is little chance of the debt being repaid.

Codes of practice

Creditors are obliged to follow certain rules and guidance, which varies depending on the types of debt you have.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

The FCA regulate debt such as credit cards and loans. The FCA’s Consumer Credit sourcebook (CONC) (rules and guidelines) state a lender must have clear policies in place for customers who are in arrears and particularly vulnerable. This includes customers who have ‘mental health difficulties’.

The Standards of Lending Practice: Personal Customers (loans, credit cards etc.)

These standards state that ‘customers who are in financial difficulty and considered vulnerable should be dealt with positively and sympathetically’.

The Taking Control of Goods: National Standards

This gives guidance on good practice for bailiffs (also known as enforcement agents) - Vulnerability should be considered by both the bailiff and the creditor before referring the case to a bailiff, each situation should be assessed on a case by case basis.

You may owe money to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for example income tax or tax credits. HMRC’s internal guidance states they should make reasonable adjustments for a person with mental health issues which have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Notice of correction

Credit reference agencies hold information about your credit agreements and payment history, which is used by creditors when they decide whether to lend you money.

You are entitled to add a ‘notice of correction’ to your credit reference files if you are concerned you may continue to obtain unnecessary credit. The statement consists of up to 200 words allowing you to explain your circumstances to potential creditors. It can be used as a temporary measure, and you are free to remove the notice of correction at any time.

Contacts

In an emergency

You can call 999 if you are worried that you or someone else is in immediate danger.

You can also ask to stay on the line while you wait for help to arrive.

Anxiety UK

Offers support for people living with anxiety disorders by providing information, support and understanding through a range of different services.

T: 03444 775 774

www.anxietyuk.org.uk

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

T: 0800 111 6768 or 0300 500 8082

www.fca.org.uk

Hafal

Provides advice and support to individuals living in Wales who are experiencing a serious mental health illness.

T: 01792 816 600

www.hafal.org

Mental Health Foundation

The website provides useful information on looking after your mental health and wellbeing. See the Your Mental Health section.

www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Mind

Provides confidential advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

T: 0300 123 3393

www.mind.org.uk

NHS Choices

The website offers information on a range of mental health issues.

www.nhs.uk/Livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

Rethink Mental Illness

Runs a national helpline and support groups for people living with mental illness, their carers and relatives.

T: 0300 5000 927

www.rethink.org

Samaritans

Runs a confidential listening service.

Phone: 116 123

www.samaritans.org

Sane

Provides emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness.

T: 0300 304 7000

www.sane.org.uk