Community Care lobbying sees mail order debt waived

A catalogue company has agreed to write off a £7,000 debt run up by a woman with learning disabilities after being contacted by Community Care.

Janice Walters, 74, from Coventry, has health problems and is a carer for two of her daughters, one of whom has profound learning disabilities.

Mrs Walters became highly distressed after receiving a letter from a collections agency demanding immediate payment of £6,981 owed to Grattan’s catalogue. A case worker with Orbit Housing Association’s Care and Repair Scheme, Donna Bentley, who has been supporting Mrs Walters, said: “Janice ran into serious financial problems. As well as the catalogue debt she owed £1,400 to an insurance company that was charging her 177% interest.

“We managed to get that debt set aside and now it’s great news that Grattan has decided not to pursue her.”

Community Care deputy editor Janet Snell added: “We urged Grattan to take a sympathetic view of Mrs Walters’ case. But there is a wider issue that, with more people with learning disabilities living in the community, we need to see a more responsible approach from lenders and a system to flag up early on when there is a problem with mounting debt.”

A spokesperson for Grattan said: “We do not and cannot discriminate at any stage of a customer relationship. The customer’s ability to borrow money is based on a credit rating process.

“Had we been aware that the customer was having problems we would have taken action beforehand, but we are reliant on what we are told at the application stage. We have no way of establishing whether any of our customers have disabilities of any description. We have received positive feedback from some customers who do have disabilities – many of them are housebound and greatly benefit from the services that we provide.”

Community Care’s A Life Like Any Other campaign is calling for people with learning disabilities to have the same chances as others to work, have their own home and contribute to the community.

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