Andrew Scobie of Perth CAB has carried out a qualitative study to explore how third parties, specifically creditors and health professionals, are responding to the needs and circumstances of indebted citizens with mental health issues.
Problem debt and mental health exist in a relationship of mutual reinforcement. Stress and anxiety caused by debt can either exacerbate chronic mental health problems or damage the mental wellbeing of someone with generally sound mental health. Alternatively, mental health may create or worsen problem debt.
Whilst there has been a notable improvement in how creditors treat indebted citizens with mental health problems, inconsistency in terms of their attitudes remains an ongoing issue.
Previous research conducted across the Scottish Citizens Advice Network into medical evidence and benefit entitlement revealed various pitfalls including GPs charging for evidence, DWP decision makers appearing to disregard evidence and health professionals refusing to provide it in the first instance.
The findings in this report, based on a micro study, include:
- Citizens with diminished financial capacity on part of mental illness being able to take out multiple pay-day loans, credit cards and/or make excessive catalogue purchases,
- their total debt reaching levels, which could not be easily paid back (if at all).
- Collection practices being potentially harmful, this includes creditors phoning and texting debtors multiple times in a single day, causing distress and anxiety.
- Inconsistency in creditor responses to medical evidence recurred frequently.
- Typically creditors did not provide any justification for their decisions.
- The quality of DMHEFs completed by health professionals varied greatly.