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  • Lex Jones, Chief Executive, Registry Trust

Monday, 9th May 2022

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2022: Avoiding the CCJ debt spiral

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 and the theme is loneliness. Debt and mental health are recognised as being inextricably linked (see Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s work for the evidence). As I talked about in a blog on ‘taking the fear out of CCJs’ last year, all types of debt can be emotive, but County Court Judgments (CCJ) can be particularly frightening. The process is complicated and the language is confusing. Those two barriers, coupled with the long-term impact on creditworthiness, can make it all the more tempting to ignore the issue in the hope it will all go away. This is sadly an approach taken all too often, as a result of debt-related stress, particularly where loneliness and isolation is a factor.

Seeking help to engage early and take action promptly is so important when you are facing a likely CCJ. A letter (if it is even received and/or opened) may not feel like it has the same urgency as a bailiff at the door or threat of energy supply cut off, but ignoring it can have a knock-on impact on all other areas of financial health (and therefore mental health), creating a potential spiral of further issues. An outstanding CCJ stays on your credit file for six years if not dealt with, making affordable credit and even housing, employment, and other services harder to come by. For those with mental health issues who struggle to deal with their finances or experience financial difficulty because of their condition, this can have significant long-term consequences.

As the not-for-profit organisation which maintains the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, we campaign for better awareness of, education around, and support for dealing with CCJs to help avoid the unnecessary harm caused by leaving them ‘unsatisfied’. Our ultimate aim is to see the changes to the CCJ process we’ve been lobbying for to make it fairer for defendants, particularly those with mental health issues. These changes would see more onus put on claimants to ‘satisfy’ CCJs and more transparency around claimant behaviour and customer treatment to make them more accountable and inform regulation. We’re also creating a Register of Partial Settlements to recognise when part-payment agreements have been reached between claimants and defendants.

In the meantime, we want to ensure that, as a minimum, CCJs are cancelled, set aside, or settled in full as quickly as possible where they can be, and that CCJs that have been fully settled are formally ‘satisfied’ with the courts. Early engagement and resolution are key and there are simple steps that need to be taken which many may be either unaware of or unable to take due to mental health issues and/or fear.

An important and simple first step is to keep creditors updated on change of address/contact details so that any CCJ notifications do not go unopened. Secondly, regularly checking your credit file for any outstanding CCJs you may be unaware of and finding out the details of them using our TrustOnline service will ensure that nothing is missed. This can be done for clients with mental health issues by their debt adviser or other support agencies.

When it comes to effectively dealing with a CCJ, this simple video makes the process a little less daunting and our customer service team are here to help for free with any questions or issues. The Help Topics on the TrustOnline website also provides more detail and support.

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