Debt collection industry body, the Credit Services Association, has issued guidance to members advising them not to request a costly debt and mental heath evidence form unless it is completely necessary.
The CSA has revised its code of practice to make it easier for customers to evidence mental health problems without having to revert to the debt and mental health evidence form for which GPs often levy a substantial charge.
The revised code advises members not to ask customers to approach health professionals for evidence in the first instance, but instead “engage with the customer to better understand their position, consider what evidence of their health problem is appropriate, and to seek other forms of supporting evidence (for example, a prescription or appointment letter) if necessary”.
Only as a last resort, or if the evidence is directly required by the original creditor, should the debt and mental health evidence form be requested, but the cost should not be borne by the individual in debt, the guidance adds.
The change follows a series of meetings last year between the minister for mental health, Jackie Doyle-Price, the Money & Mental Health Policy Unit, and various organisations including the CSA, charities and clinicians, including the British Medical Association, looking at how the form is used and paid for.
CSA president John Ricketts said it is unacceptable that someone with money and mental health problems should have to pay to evidence their condition.
He said: “We’ve therefore taken the proactive step of issuing clear guidance to our members on how they can support the most vulnerable and shifting the focus away from the use of the debt and mental health evidence form.”
“Being in debt can be a stressful experience and we recognise that. We want to encourage other interested groups to follow this lead and work with them to ensure that all creditors, not just CSA members, see this as a positive move and likewise not request evidence that could ultimately add to a customer’s debt burden.”
Doyle-Price added: “This is a significant step towards addressing the injustices that people who have mental health problems often face. Around half of those with a debt problem also have mental ill health and many of those with a mental health condition cite concerns about money as a contributing factor.
“Everyone with a mental health condition deserves to be treated compassionately and I encourage other groups to follow the CSA’s lead to ensure their customers’ mental health is both respected and protected.”