Debt Collection agency and a vulnerable adult(21 Posts)
Yes...not quite the topic but looking for quick advice as she's coming round soon...
In short a DCA is being very heavy handed. My relative has LD (IQ under 70)/ hearing impairment/ social communication difficulties/ mental health needs and more...receives DLA and was living in supporting accomodation, but now lived alone for the first time with support worker visits. Claims DLA for this.
Her support worker informed her a bill, he dealt with , did not need to be paid. It was rent for her supported accomodation, agreed to move without notice on a certain date verbally. Fast forward two years the company that runs the accomodation have passed her details to a DCA to chase for the 2 weeks rent. Sister has not kept paperwork from this time, but I do remember checking that she could move without notice (they were happy I guess as it's high demand).
I've tried ringing them to explain she can't read/ comprehend the letters fully (she is getting a neighbour the read them) and is terrified by them plus the debt is in dispute (they simply sent a statement showing she owed the rent). It shows it was paid up until her moving out date by housing benefit.
The housing company (a trust for people with mental health needs) are not replying to her. They have new staff.
Personally I'd ignore the letters, but she believes someone will come round and take money and re-reads the letters that say they are sending someone round. She's getting scared to stay in the house/ keeps turning up in a state. She fixates on them.
I've told them to take it to court, but they just persist in ever more heavy letters. She doesn't answer her phone (she's deaf) but they also call. They are a nightmare to talk to, I've tried. Plus I can only talk when she's here to authorise. When I give her the phone to confirm this they try to ask her other questions like 'are you working?' (of course she isn't).
Long term I'm thinking CAB, but is they anything I can do straight off to help?
If anyone is wondering it was agreed she could move without notice as if a council flat came up she had to move straight into it, and it was proving a barrier to moving at all because her housing benefit would not cover 2 weeks run in two places.
Does your sister have a social worker? That would be a good place to start for,advice.
Her social worker is not being at all helpful. They rung once or twice and the account was put on hold, but it's not a long term solution.
Are there any relevant charities locally which could advocate for your relative? Many can offer benefits and financial advice. I wouldn't wait to go to CAB if the letters are already getting threatening. It may help if your relative can discuss the situation with a 3rd party to allay their fears rather than just you.
Annoying the accommodation is linked to the support charity locally, they are not a fan of her. She is awkward to dealt with and manager have lost patience, they ignore her (she hasn't done anything big, she's just difficult to converse with/ offer help)
You relative lacks the capacity to deal with her affairs and needs a responsible adult to work with her. Speaking to her social worker would be a good place to start but if you able to help contact Stepchange for guidance. You may need to think about having her capacity to deal with her affairs assessed. You really need specialist debt advice to deal with this.
Get an appointment with the CAB and in the meantime it might be worth a call to national debtline to see if they can give you advice specific to the situation.
Write to the agencies involved and ask to see their policies on dealing with vulnerable adults who lack capacity. Ask the support provider what assessment of capacity they did and did she have capacity to enter into a contract . In the longer term it would be worth looking at lasting power of attorney if she has capacity to grant one so somebody can deal with her affairs officially .
The support provider and social worker really should be talking and sorting this out if the move was agreed . I would complain in writing if they don't . What an upsetting situation for your relative, it could be really damaging for her health .
How much is owed? ie if it not worth their while/expense to take it to court they will just keep harassing for it.
About £120, doubt it would go to court especially as she has no money plus the complications. I don't want to pay just because it's harrassment, but the contact is really affecting her.
Tbh I suggest that you pay it, and then obtain power of attorney so that you can deal with her financial matters in future.
I know that the notion of paying it sticks in the throat given that it's allegedly an unfair charge, but it may be worth it in order to reduce both her stress level and your anxiety about her welfare.
She's lucky to have you.
Sorry Scarlets but I disagree, in the event of my absence she will then learn to pay every unfair charge she meets in life, and being as she is she is more likely to receive them than most. As she lives on DLA/ benefits money is hugely tight in London and she has no svaings, I could forsee her then losing her property in the future or something awful. As an example she once paid a parking charge sent to her address by a former owner. She doesn't drive.
If her social worker us being unhelpful, contact their manager, do not wait around, this is what her social worker is supposed to help with. Put everything in writing to all parties (debt agency, social work, if she has a mental health carer) and when sending use registered delivery so you have signatures for receipt of all correspondence. Also contact CAB, take all paperwork you have when meeting with them.
A DCA and bailiffs are totally different things with totally different powers (I work for a debt charity) a DCA are most likely to just send letters and threaten court action, if This matter goes the court the debtor will be able to arrange a payment plan (with help).
She could also have a friend call the DCA and arrange a repayment plan that is affordable, I.e £5pm.
Obviously if it goes to court and a payment plan is not arranged court appointed bailiffs can be used and the tricky thing there is that "vulnerability" is not a clear definition. It really should be but bailiffs will argue the point that a debtor is not vulnerable as far as they can.
Best thing to do is ask support/social worker to assist in arranging repayment plan (affordable)
CAB can often negotiate write offs but this can be a long process.
The supported housing home should have applied for dual housing benefit as your sister needed to move quickly. They have acted poorly as that is standard practice where l work. If someone is moving on into independent living. Try to contact an advocate service that will be used to this type of thing.
Ring your local Social Services and ask to be put through to the Safeguarding team, they will deal with this on her behalf. Speak to the debt collectors and pass on that it is going through the councils safeguarding team for investigation and this will probably make them back off significantly as they are probably aware they are not acting completely legally. We had the same issue with a family friend and the safeguarding team were really good at getting it all dealt with very quickly. They are also good at offering advise about long term solutions in dealing with money, setting up power of attorney etc.
If you are on Facebook, request to join a group called 'Beat the bailiffs and the banks' Very helpful knowledgeable people who will help you out.
Has anyone got deputyship for property and finances? I assume not and would strongly recommend this for future dealings. I wouldn't like to judge if she has capacity to manage her money or not but it sounds unlikely.
Step Change are a very good debt charity and will be able to give advice.
I am sorry, I don't know anything about these type of situations, but I would be tempted to phone the local newspaper to shame the housing charity into sorting it out. Some local MPs are very good and will also help.
Join beat the baliffs and the banks on Facebook. They are fantastic and will guide you through what to do about this.
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.