I received a phone call last week from the brother of one of my clients, a mother of two children who has mental health problems.
Most of the time she copes fine and the children are a credit to her and her wider family who keep an eye on things. However, like a lot of people in her situation, she is not adept at managing money and dealing with official forms or conversing on the phone about money. Therefore, what begins as a letter chasing up payment ends up as a final demand discovered at the bottom of a pile of letters or a letter threatening legal action or a visit from bailiffs.
Her brother says he has just visited and found a letter from a debt collection agency over unpaid money from a clothes catalogue company. He wasn’t happy, and asked why I hadn’t noticed a lot of spending on clothes. I am apologetic and wonder why I didn’t notice. Anyway, I manage to placate him and then organise a visit.
There is no paper trail, all I have is the letter from a debt collection agency. During the next few days I make some phone calls, piece together what has happened and put in place a repayment schedule. The mother is upset and sorry and in such situations I have to be careful not to exacerbate any problems or distress the children.
In the past, we’ve been in the same situation with the utilities. One by one we have put them all on direct debit. I was hoping that would be the end of it but she still comes up with some surprises.
Which reminds me, I’d better keep an eye out for council tax rebate forms.
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