Registry Trust, the non-profit organisation which maintains the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for England & Wales on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, is calling on key stakeholders to support its efforts to use Money & Pensions Service’s Talk Money Week 2021 (8-12 November) to get people talking about – and dealing with – county court judgments (CCJs).
While we wholeheartedly support efforts to increase the UK’s financial literacy from a young age and throughout adulthood by focusing on managing money more effectively by budgeting and saving, we are concerned that there still is not enough public awareness or education on dealing with financial problems quickly and thoroughly when they do occur. In a perfect world, no one would ever miss a payment or get into any debt but that isn’t the reality and there is no shame in things sometimes going wrong. It can happen to anyone at any time and issues can usually be resolved easily without a lasting impact on your financial wellbeing if dealt with quickly and in the right way.
However, all types of debt carry with them some level of ‘taboo’ and the legal process surrounding CCJs, plus the fact that they tend to only be used as a last resort when a creditor has tried and failed at other means of recovering the outstanding balance, means that they are rarely talked about or referred to as part of financial education programmes. We would argue that checking for and knowing how to deal with CCJs is absolutely fundamental to financial capability, wellbeing and resilience. This is because if someone, knowingly or unknowingly, has an outstanding CCJ against them, their access to credit, insurance, tenancy contracts, and, in some industries, a new job can be hampered. This can increase existing financial vulnerability and even create vulnerability where it wasn’t already there. In fact, receiving a CCJ can often be a ‘warning sign’ that someone is in financial difficulty and can lead to a spiral of further problems if this isn’t identified and resolved.
In the wake of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that there is nothing standing in the way of people’s ability to rebuild their finances when they get into difficulty. And yet, there is widespread lack of awareness about what CCJs are, why it is so important to deal with them quickly and thoroughly, and how to do so. There is also little proactive encouragement for people to check whether they have a CCJ against them that they are unaware of before they stumble across it when being refused credit or for some other reason. Preventing this from happening by keeping all your creditors updated of a change of address is important, but letters can be missed (or ignored if they are difficult to deal with) for a range of other reasons.
Our aim is to use the data from the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for ‘public good’ as a live indicator of indebtedness and financial vulnerability. From this data, we can identify trends such as falling numbers of ‘satisfied’ judgments, which indicate that there may be many instances where CCJ debts are being paid off in full but then not formally marked as ‘satisfied’. Many aren’t aware that it is their responsibility to provide proof of payment to the court and just think that because it’s settled with the creditor, the matter is dealt with. This is where the nuances of the legal process become complicated and something that people don’t always feel comfortable talking about. We are campaigning for the whole CCJ process to be made fairer for defendants, but in the meantime, we need better education around this.
Ahead of Talk Money Week 2021, we’ve created this video about what CCJs are and how to deal with and check for them – and we need help from debt advisers, financial education providers and others to share it far and wide! Watch it now here and share on social media (see links to our channels below).
If you are interested in finding out more about how you can help get people talking about CCJs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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