Bailiff mind games devastating to mental health
Posted Saturday 4 September 2010
Mind today reveals shocking new evidence about the devastating impact a visit from the bailiffs can have on your mental health. 50% of people surveyed by the charity reported suicidal feelings after a knock on the door from bailiffs. In the current economic climate and as more and more people find it difficult to keep up with their bills, Mind is calling on the Government to act on its commitment to protect the public from aggressive bailiffs and urgently introduce robust regulation of the profession.
Mind’s survey of people’s experiences of bailiffs found that:
- 96% reported increased levels of anxiety after a visit from bailiffs and 87% reported increased levels of depression
- 50% reported having suicidal thoughts
- 80% had experienced threatening behaviour
- Over 65% were subjected to aggressive behaviour
- 74% felt it had a negative impact on their family
- 1 in 10 were being pursued for debts of under £100
- 70% were charged excessive fees on top of their debts
- Only 5% said bailiffs provided them with information when they requested it
- 78% did not complain because they didn’t know who to complain to (55%), they thought there was no point (60%) or they were too distressed (52%)
- Of those who did complain, only 8% felt their complaint was dealt with adequately.
The Labour Government had previously committed to introducing regulation in 2012 by the Security Industry Authority — the same body which covers bouncers and wheel clampers. However, Mind is concerned this body is not strong enough to stamp out bad practice. Even leading bailiff companies and trade associations have called for independent regulation of the bailiff industry to address bad practice by disreputable companies.
Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:
We are very concerned about the high numbers of people who have experienced abuse and threatening behaviour at the hands of bailiffs. We have heard cases of bailiffs forcing their way into homes, threatening people with prison and even intimidating people’s children. Without regulation, bailiffs are free to exaggerate their powers with no repercussions, there are currently no binding rules for them to abide by.
There must be action now by the Government to address the issues raised by our survey. This should include a commitment to engage with key stakeholders including Mind on introducing safeguards, reviewing the existing national standards for bailiffs, tackling the issue of excessive fees, and movement towards a better complaints procedure. It is only by introducing effective regulation with teeth that we can tackle those who are using bullying tactics which can be so damaging to mental health.
Mind is working with the bailiff trade associations to raise awareness about issues affecting people with mental health problems. We would welcome the opportunity for ongoing dialogue between leading bailiff agencies, the Ministry of Justice and the advice sector. It is only by all parties working constructively together that strong and effective regulation will be achieved.
Louise was contacted by bailiffs after a mistake by her local council meant she got into arrears with her council tax:
The bailiffs won’t talk to you, they just shout. I have been harassed, bullied, shouted at, threatened… Sometimes you just feel like giving up. You feel physically sick. It’s so frightening.
When they come it’s not a normal knock on your door. You hear of people talking about ‘a police knock’ but this is something else, it sounded like they were trying to boot down the door. Then they will just sit outside your house, maybe for an hour, and pretend to write things down and make phone calls. It’s all mind games. There needs to be somewhere you can complain to. I didn’t know where to turn.
- Mind’s poll was conducted between December 2009 and January 2010 and attracted 453 responses.
- Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.
- For more information, interviews and a range of case studies please contact Mind press office —
T: 020 8522 1743
M: 07850 788514
ISDN line available: 020 8221 0817.
- Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.