Money and Mental Health wins Best Consumer Campaign award for Stop the Debt Threats
13 May 2021
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has been awarded Best Consumer Campaign at the National Campaigner Awards by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) for its successful Stop the Debt Threats campaign
The ‘Stop the Debt Threats’ campaign successfully changed decades-old rules which forced lenders to send intimidating letters to people in problem debt — and which can contribute to people becoming suicidal.
Tonight (13 May), the Stop the Debt Threats campaign has won Best Consumer Campaign at the coveted Sheila McKechnie National Campaigner Awards for successfully challenging and changing a harmful practice.
Money and Mental Health’s research showed that over 100,000 people in problem debt attempt to take their own life in England every year. Many factors can contribute to people becoming suicidal, but members of their Research Community – a group of 5,000 people with lived experience of mental health problems – said that intimidating debt letters can leave people feeling panicked and unable to see a way out of their situation.
Rules in the Consumer Credit Act actually forced lenders to send these intimidating letters, featuring large blocks of threatening and confusing language. They also had to advise people to consult their solicitor or local trading standards board, instead of signposting to free debt advice.
As a result of the campaign, the Government announced in October 2020 that it is changing Consumer Credit Act rules on ‘default notices’, the most distressing debt letters. The language will be simplified and made less intimidating, with jargon explained. Text will no longer be written in shouty block capital letters, which will make them less alarming. Instead of advising people to consult their solicitor or trading standards, the letters will now include signposting to appropriate sources of free debt advice. Changes will happen by June 2021.
Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, says: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded Best Consumer Campaign at the National Campaigner Awards, and to be recognised alongside so many other inspiring campaigns. It’s no exaggeration to say that changing the rules on debt letters to make them more supportive and less intimidating could save lives, especially with so many people facing debt and distress during the pandemic.
“We couldn’t have done that without the support of our incredible Research Community, the 12,000 activists who signed our petition and the more than 30 national charities and financial firms who backed our campaign. We want to say a big thanks to them for helping us make that happen.”
The SMK National Campaigner Awards celebrate the best campaigns and campaigners – whether working locally or nationally, and from individuals and community groups to people working in large organisations. Our interest is in finding those who have made change happen – most effectively, creatively and courageously.
The awards is where we bring the campaign community together to champion and celebrate campaigning, demonstrating its value and acknowledging success.
The Awards are supported by Bates Wells, the leading legal advisers to civil society, helping campaigning organisations go further.
The Best Consumer Campaign Awards category is sponsored by Which?, a charity that offers free consumer advice and campaigns for fairer practices.