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Trust Deeds Advisers and Mental Incapacity

This week a member of our trust deeds advice team attended a training course organised by debt advice trade association The Debt Resolution Forum. The DRF had identified that some members wanted support in establishing greater awareness, knowledge, and processes within their businesses to properly assist clients that might be suffering from mental health or incapacity difficulties. The course was designed and delivered by Mind, the leading mental health charity.

Mind looked into debt and mental incapacity in some research last year. In particular they suggested that creditor organisations had some work to do in taking mental capacity into account when making lending decisions. They also highlighted the need to ensure that people can access quality debt advice, on options including trust deeds, from advisers that have an understanding of mental health.

There appears to be a two-way causal link between debt and mental incapacity. We learned this week that as many as 25% of people with mental capacity problems are in debt. We also received confirmation from Mind that debt itself can create mental health problems. It therefore seems to be a safe assumption that a considerable minority of the 2049 people that signed protected trust deeds in the last quarter may be touched by mental health issues of some type.

We also learned that every 30 seconds in the UK a debt collection adviser is told by someone they are chasing for repayment that they have mental health issues. Apparently a third of these advisers do not ask any follow-up questions having been given this information. This perhaps indicates that the member of staff has not been trained sufficiently in this area.

Given that such a high proportion of people with mental incapacity concerns are struggling with debt, and given that debt itself causes so many mental health issues, it seems appropriate that all debt and trust deeds advisers receive training in how to properly and fairly assist clients who find themselves in this position. 

We advise anyone who themselves is struggling with debt, and who is aware that they have mental incapacity or health problems, to identify this to a debt or trust deeds adviser if you speak to one. This places an extra onus on the adviser, and his or her employer, to ensure that the advice and support that you receive is appropriate for your needs at that time.

Mind reports that only around half of those with mental health problems had informed a debt adviser of their problems when taking advice in 2011. Letting a debt or trust deeds adviser know gives them a better chance of providing the correct support and advice.

Trust deeds and other debt solutions aren’t closed to those with mental health or incapacity problems. Informing a trust deeds adviser of the facts about your health and wellbeing should therefore be encouraged. Clearly trust deeds advisers can play their part in providing the best advice possible by seeking training and enhanced awareness about these issues at a level which is appropriate to their role.

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