Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

New Lending Code 9: mental health, debt agencies

November 19, 2009

181. If a subscriber has received appropriate and relevant evidence of a customer’s mental health problems they should consider whether it is appropriate to pass or sell the customer’s debt to a third party debt collection agency. [Reproduced with the kind permission of the British Banking Association -see link below]

I can see no justification whatsoever for a creditor using an agency or selling the debt on once it is aware the customer is in the vulnerable groups. Certainly in the vast majority of cases hectoring is not what is required, even less the harassment, worry and fear of these crude methods.

Much, much more is likely to be achieved by a sympathetic and supportive approach. I wonder about the decision making process that has developed the current blind and thoughtless path.

By the very nature of their situation few vulnerable debtors are likely to be in a position to clear a debt immediately. And often their incomes are so inadequate that it is unlikely recovery of the debt is likely.

Where that is the case all blindly cold processes are pure waste of money. At best they are deliberately cruel, and at worst actually sadistic. The latter is in itself a mental health issue, as it happens – but this time on the other side of the debtor-creditor divide.

Of course not all vulnerable debtors are in poverty or poor. But where the only assets are a house, or the means of getting through their day without difficulty, pursuit raises issues of human rights.

Far better, then, to approach all such cases with skill, knowledge, understanding, and sympathy. This form offers support to just that.

At the same time it should not be turned into a requirement in all cases. Where it can contribute and their is agreement to use it is, without question, an invaluable aid in working out the best course of action.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

The new Lending Code is here http://www.bba.org.uk/bba/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1758
The MALG 2007 submission to the review of the code is here http://www.moneyadvicetrust.org/download.asp
And the Treasury Select committee view is here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmtreasy/274/27406.htm#a18

 

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New Lending Code 4:mental health, third parties

November 11, 2009
175. Where it is appropriate and with a customer’s consent, subscribers should work with advice agencies and health and social care professionals in a joined-up way to exchange information and ensure an effective dialogue. [Reproduced with the kind permission of the British Banking Association -see link below]

Many creditors, and some debt collectors, may well prefer to work with representative agencies. Always much easier to work to a routine and have someone else work out the details, and do all the questioning and examining.

Especially if that intermediary, that third party, because of its own pressures, needs to pigeonhole and classify elements of the debtors finances and problems.

Often this is presented as a requirement. To my mind this is disgraceful, and a breach of the terms under the defunct Banking Code, the new Lending Code and under the Consumer Protection Regulations.

Of course this third party representation can work sometimes for the debtor. But many cases have unique elements that are quite difficult to satisfactorily understand, let alone resolve.

For that reason among many others, such as the individual’s rights in a democracy, it is important that the right to represent oneself is again emphasised.

By implication the institutions are told that they are dealing with an individual, and that individual will decide whether to use an intermediary or not.

Notice also the reference to a ‘joined up way’ and ‘effective dialogue’. One hopes this is more effective that Tony Blair’s joined up government. But putting that humour aside, it does mean that the obligation is on the creditor to ensure proper collection of information and making inclusive judgement after all the to and fro discussion.

Creditors are also, by implication, required to inform themselves on mental health issues. This is why a specialist department for the vulnerable cases is not just a good idea, but sound practice. The creation of such departments should be treated both as a matter of urgency, and enforced by the OFT.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man

Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms

http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

The new Lending Code is here http://www.bba.org.uk/bba/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1758

The MALG 2007 submission to the review of the code is here http://www.moneyadvicetrust.org/download.asp

And the Treasury Select committee view is here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmtreasy/274/27406.htm#a18

New Lending Code 3: mental health, responses

November 10, 2009
174. The appropriate response will differ in each case and could involve a range of approaches, including:
• working positively with an advice agency
• promptly carrying out agreed actions
• being flexible in responding to offers or schedules of repayment
• sensitively managing communications with the customer (for example preventing unnecessary and unwelcome mailings). [Reproduced with the kind permission of the British Banking Association -see link below]

 

Paragraph 174 has some useful pointers to the creditor on how to handle its dealings with vulnerable debtors.

These terms: ‘positively … promptly … flexible … sensitively’ give a clear indication of the manner in which companies should gear these particular contacts. This is in sharp contrast to the normally aggressive and harassing manner of most debt collection departments and debt collection agencies.

Sensitive in the context of this matter is defined as finely aware of the attitudes and feelings of others [The Penguin English Dictionary].

While I suggest the companies rethink their whole collection procedures in light of this advice, it will be a big advance if they do so at least for the vulnerable. Since the Consumer Protection Regulations already feature the idea of differences of approach to vulnerable consumers, there is now no excuse for creditors not making this policy for their internal procedures.

Those who prefer to handle their own affairs should note that the use of advice agencies remains an option, not a requirement. While the specialist charities do know their own fields, and offer more awareness, you should be careful about the awareness of any intermediary over your own situation.

Never allow yourself to be harassed over this by agents. Remember it is not your job to make the companies’ lives easier, but to get fair treatment – and to yourself behave fairly!

If companies fail to show this level of care in a case of mental health disorder they should be reported to the monitoring agency – The Lending Standards Board. If you feel the matter is serious I suggest you also report it to the Licences Section of the Office of Fair Trading.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

The new Lending Code is here http://www.bba.org.uk/bba/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1758

The MALG 2007 submission to the review of the code is here http://www.moneyadvicetrust.org/download.asp

And the Treasury Select committee view is here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmtreasy/274/27406.htm#a18

How Will the New Lending Code take effect?

November 9, 2009

One can probably trace the genesis of the new Lending Code, from FSA bombshell about taking over the Banking Code, to realising parts belonged under the OFT, to realising that means rewrites, to thinking the best people to write it would be the current possessors, to conveying that information and then to actually confirming.

Only after that could the British Banking Association deal with the severe truncation of its code and the Lending Standards Board, as the prior Banking Code Standards Board is now known, start reorganising.

It was a severe disappoinment to me that he result of this meant the code was not ready for examination and comment long before it came into effect. Indeed it was not in sight until the moment of becoming The Code.

So it is no surprise to any of us if understanding how the changes in it will be worked is not yet extant.

In my discussions with the FSA, the BBA and the OFT – I have not attempted to ask the FOS yet – I have asked the following questions and made the following points.

1. How will the mental health section, pars 173-183, which is entirely new and very important for affected debtors, apply to existing cases

2. It seems likely that a court would interpret its application to an existing collection at any point of change; but what would be the relevant criteria for ‘change’?

3. Where a complaint has reached final response and is then either on its way to or with the FOS how does the FOS utilise pars 173 to 183. There are many ways to do this, including returning the complaint to the creditor or agent with instructions to reconsider it in light of the new pars.

4. In par 183 reference is made to the MALG advice of 2007 as further guidelines, virtually bringing the whole of them in to the code. These are about all vulnerable debtors ]probably including borrowers whether in financial difficulties or not. As this ties in firmly to the CPRs on vulnerable customers, adding a definition in part, to what extent are all vulnerable debtors assisted by the new paragraphs.

5. As the OFT is the enforcing agency, the FOS, and all debtors and their advisors, will need to know your position on them. Will you advise when the necessary advice is issued, and give details of that advice?

I would point out that the creditors, as large and powerful institutions and with various industry bodies, lobby intensively both on legislation, rules and codes, as well as interpretations. While there are seriously over-stretched charities who represent debtors they either do not specialise or are not big enough to offer a strong countering voice in this area.

6. The voice of the actual debtor is simply not heard and his lobby is weak. Even the ombudsman, the FOS, is actually funded by the industry, and its influence is very clear in process.

7. Through the credit licences the OFT has considerable power to ensure better observance of rules and a more balanced judgement by the FOS; yet from the debtor’s point of view that power is used very lightly.

8. The OFT is the body upon which the debtor must rely to make sure the rules there are effective. This is a matter I will return to.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

 

New Lending Code 2: mental health, systems

November 6, 2009

Debt and mental health
This section of guidance is relevant to both personal and micro-enterprise customers.
173. The impacts of financial difficulty can be especially acute for customers with mental health problems. Subscribers should consider their processes and systems to ensure that they can be responsive to a customer in financial difficulties, from the point at which they are made aware of a mental health problem. [Reproduced with the kind permission of the British Banking Association – here]

The Lending Code is now part of the formal equipment of the Office of Fair Trading, and sits more certainly side by side with holding of Credit Licences and with such fair dealings rules as the Consumer Protection Regulations.

Monitoring remains with the Lending Standards Board [that was the Banking Code Standards Board], but penalising becomes a matter for the OFT.

This is why this is such an important advance. It is now a requirement for creditors and debt collectors to take into account mental problems where there are financial difficulties. This is already covered in the CPRs, under the guise of vulnerable debtors. Vulnerable includes the elderly and those without funds.

While the Debt and Mental Health section is by no means as definite as I would like, it is such a big strengthening of the position of debtors with such health problem that the wording is to be praised as improving the experience of such debtors.

By featuring the good practice guidelines of the Money Advice Liaison Group, the other members of the vulnerable classification are effectively included. The more definite advice in the guidelines also becomes part of good practice.

It is also worth glancing at the 2005 comments of the Treasury Select Committee.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

New Lending Code Overview

November 4, 2009

I am not used to eating my words, but this may be the occasion. Fortunately the matter is one that has not just my approval, but is a demand of mine.

The new code has taken on board the advice of the MALG forum on mental health issues and debt. For me this makes the new version a cause for celebration.

Because it is rather hidden away my first glance did not take it in. But the lay out of the pdf of The Lending Code is, in fact, very well designed and does make it easier than usual to find one’s way about.

So congratulations Paul Ross, who is in charge of the code for the British Banking Association. This is a success.

Make the most of this praise ;-), there is unlikely to be any more!

I need time to evaluate the content, of course. I will have to take some pretty small bites and chew hard, so there is no option but to write many blogs to give you the information you need.

Next blog will look carefully at the entries on the mental health advice to creditors, and I will try to give a good overview followed by detailed discussion of the effects of the different paragraphs.

But this inclusion has certainly cheered me.

Of course I do take credit for its inclusion. Don’t laugh.

When I spoke to Paul Ross on the phone I July I did try to impress on him how important it was, and that the information needed had been published by the Money Advice Trust in the 2007 review of the Banking Code. the impression I got from him was that there was no way he would include it.

I wrote on this to him in July also. Either he was pulling my leg, which I doubt, or I did spark his thinking. And after investigation I suspect he came to the same conclusion Idid about its importance.

Well that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it ;-). Here is part of my email on July 22:

“In this I am particularly conscious of the MALG advice in 2007 – and the BBA is a member of MALG – that seems to have simply fallen by the wayside. This dealt particularly with the problems of vulnerable debtors. While the major part of the industry does seems sensitive to this anyway, there are some big players that appear not to appreciate the responsibility on them for fairness in these areas.

“I also appreciate the main thrust may be to ensure the new wording equates to the old, but it might be a useful move for the BBA to indicate at least the new broad heads to enable early thought by the multiple users of the code regarding the changes they will all have to make in their references.

“November 1 is very near in practical terms, only three months away. Any early information on the change would be much appreciated by all users.”

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis On Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk