How enforcement agents (bailiffs) help debtors struggling with their Mental Health

It is not surprising that people struggling with their mental health are more likely to fall into debt. Judgement and prioritisation can become impaired when someone is vulnerable, leading to situations where people may feel they need to ignore or hide from problems even if it could end up making things worse. In partnership with both the debt advice sector and local authorities, CIVEA members have a long history of successfully supporting vulnerable people. Our members will continue to signpost people towards free advice and always refer any individuals they identify as potential cases of vulnerability to dedicated welfare specialists.

Mental Health charity MIND explains that poor mental health can affect the way you deal with money, as depression and low motivation affect how to manage finances and can lead to impulsive financial decisions. MIND also points out that mental health can affect somebody's ability to work, which impacts on their income creating more financial pressure. Avoidance of decisions, like opening reminder letters and demands for payments, is a common response. This is exacerbated by other typical symptoms, such as a consistent lack of sleep and increased feelings of anxiety.

Contact centre staff and enforcement agents in the field (sometimes known as bailiffs) can identify people who present as having poor mental health and signpost to dedicated welfare teams and appropriate support services. CIVEA and its members understand that the enforcement industry plays a pivotal role in helping to identify and respond appropriately to all different vulnerability needs

It is not always easy to spot somebody who is struggling with their mental health, but staff are trained to look out for warning signs including the use of specific language and erratic changes to behaviour when in conversation. This identification process is incredibly important, as CIVEA members are often the first people to speak with someone who is potentially vulnerable, whether on the phone, online or on the doorstep.

How are enforcement agents (bailiffs) qualified to support people with poor mental health debtors?

All CIVEA members have dedicated welfare teams to support the most vulnerable cases, and enforcement agents are trained extensively to identify and refer vulnerable people to support services.

Mandatory training for all enforcement agents ensures that they are prepared to understand individuals struggling financially due to poor mental health. CIVEA members adhere to all relevant legislation, such as the Mental Health Act and Disability Discrimination Act, to protect those suffering from impairments or facing vulnerable circumstances.

In recognition that enforcement agents and contact centre operators would encounter higher levels of vulnerability and mental health difficulties from people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a post-lockdown training programme was implemented across the industry, including comprehensive refresher training. This training is still applicable and delivered today, covering procedures for welfare teams with established TEXAS, IDEA and BRUCE techniques.

Particular emphasis in vulnerability training is placed on identifying and assisting people with poor mental health and this has remained essential with challenges associated with the cost-of-living crisis in 2023. The training also includes related topics, such as serious and long-term illness, suicide awareness, gambling and addiction, which also impact people’s financial and health status and may have been exacerbated alongside mental health problems in recent years.

Enforcement Agents are not immune to Mental Health challenges

CIVEA recognises that mental health problems can affect anyone, including our own members and their staff. Enforcement is a rewarding but challenging role, which can sometimes see a person tasked with facing or handling difficult cases and stressful scenarios.

CIVEA and its members promote well-being and support initiatives for all staff, encouraging employees, whether enforcement agents or office staff, to speak to their colleagues and share how they feel.

What should I do if I think I have not been treated unfairly?

If you wish to complain about an enforcement agent or enforcement company, you must first raise your complaint directly with the firm concerned. Each CIVEA member company has its own internal complaints procedure and you will need to complete this process first. If you are dissatisfied with the enforcement company’s response, CIVEA can usually consider the complaint, as long as the company is one of our members (a full list of members is available here).

In instances where CIVEA is the correct body to review your complaint, we will normally acknowledge this within 5 days. It should also be noted that raising a complaint will not always put a hold on further enforcement action. CIVEA does not have the legal authority to stop enforcement action being taken under a warrant of control or an order granted by the court.

I am struggling mentally and falling behind on debts. What can I do?

If you or someone you know is mentally unwell and being contacted by an enforcement company, the best thing to do is to make the company aware of your mental health problems as early as possible. This can help them understand your circumstances better and adjust their handling of the recovery process – as well as point you in the direction of free advice charities and support that can help. The Debt Respite Scheme, aka Breathing Space, may be a relevant option in certain circumstances.

The organisations and charities below will be able to offer free and impartial advice and guidance on your circumstances right now:

Citizens Advice

MoneyHelper (formerly the Money Advice Service)


National Debtline

Christians Against Poverty

Advice UK

It is now more important than ever that we remain focused on understanding the needs of those who are suffering with mental illness and ensuring enforcement representatives have access to the guidance needed to appropriately support the people they engage with at all times.

0844 893 3922

PO Box 745

For general enquiries only, you can contact us by email (, letter or telephone.

If you have a complaint or concern about one of our members, please go to our complaints page for advice

CIVEA is unable to discuss complaint matters over the telephone and complaints should be sent in writing. This is to ensure that the details of your complaint are accurately recorded and understood which makes it easier in addressing your complaint thoroughly. Please advise if you have a disability, so that we can make reasonable adjustments.

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