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Yesterday (10 October) was World Mental Health Day 2021and the theme was 'mental health in an unequal world'. In recent years, the link between money and mental health (both in terms of money problems causing mental health issues and mental health issues exacerbating money problems) has been well researched and documented by the likes of Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. It has been widely acknowledged that personal finances, and debt in particular, is an emotive and complex issue and lots of work has been done to break down the taboos that can stand in the way of resolving financial issues.

However, while all types of debt can be stressful and difficult to deal with, receiving a County Court Judgment (CCJ) for an unpaid debt can be one of the most complex, especially if you have mental health issues. The stress of the legal language/process and the lasting impact on creditworthiness can even cause mental health issues and create financial vulnerability that wasn’t already there.

Registry Trust is the non-profit organisation which maintains the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines where outstanding CCJs are listed for up to six years (if they are not formally ‘set aside’ or satisfied’). We share this ‘public data for public good’ with credit reference agencies, lenders, insurers, insolvency practitioners, debt management companies, and others to enable responsible lending and borrowing, as well as making it available for wider use in policy-making, financial education and more. While we are an impartial, independent organisation whose role is to simply process the raw data, we also aim to use our in-depth understanding of this data to speak out about key issues.

An issue we are particularly passionate about is making the CCJ process fairer for defendants (both consumers and businesses). And we have identified some simple ways that this could be done (see this blog), a key one being making it easier for those who have paid off CCJs in full to have them marked as ‘satisfied’ on the Register. The current system of defendants having to go through the final hurdle of providing the court with proof of payment, which many are still unaware of the need to do, puts far too much onus on those who may already be in financial difficulty and/or have mental health issues. Once the debt has been paid and the defendant believes it to be ‘resolved’, it should no longer be their responsibility to ensure it is marked as ‘satisfied’ as this could potentially cause further stress, anxiety and financial issues if not done properly.

We hope that our call for it to become the responsibility of claimants to have CCJs marked as ‘satisfied’ will be taken on board, but in the meantime, we are working hard to ensure that the public is aware of the need to ‘get satisfaction’, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic when financial vulnerability and mental health issues are so prevalent. By taking the fear out of CCJs and making them easier to understand and talk about (watch this space for #TalkMoneyWeek 2021!) we hope to reduce the impact on the mental health of those affected.

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