A FAMILY has complained to Rother Council for the way they treated their mentally ill son after he got in difficulties over council tax.
Jonathan Pope is now terrified to leave his Rye Harbour home after bailiffs turned up threatening to take away his furniture after he allegedly missed two £20 payments.
Jonathan’s father Clive, from Winchelsea Beach, is upset at the way his son has been treated and says that Rother had agreed that he should be copied in on all correspondence sent to his son.
Clive said: “Jonathan suffers from an acute form of mental illness which means that he has a significantly reduced capacity to effectively manage his affairs and has a history and potential for self-harm.
“In particular the illness gives Jonathan a fear of going out and an inability to open his mail. He has regular psychiatric counselling but had shown some appreciable progress over the past few months. This changed on 19 February when he was visited by a debt collector, purportedly acting on behalf of RDC, which set him back six months or more in his recovery.
“RDC consider that Jonathan owes some outstanding Council Tax from his previous address, which I disputed at the time; Jonathan was unable to complete the forms which would entitle him to a rebate.
“It was however agreed that Jonathan could repay this debt at £20 per month. Unfortunately it transpires that he did not pay either December or January’s payment and, as I had not received any correspondence from RDC, it came as a shock to me when he telephoned to inform me that a debt collector had arrived at his door. Although he presented no form of identification he stated that he was acting on behalf of RDC with instructions to remove furniture from his house.
“When I arrived the debt collector had gained entry to the property and was making a list of the items he was about to remove. Despite Jonathan stating that he was a vulnerable person prior to the debt collector entering the property, he was either not aware of this or chose to ignore it.
“The debt collector threatened to remove all furniture, including items on loan from me, unless he paid a sum of £477.58. He would not explain or provide notice of this amount and no paperwork was provided or served by him. Being somewhat intimidated by the debt collector’s threat I felt I had no alternative other than to pay to ensure that Jonathan maintained his basic domestic needs. The debt collector refused to provide a receipt and then demanded Jonathan pay a further £360 at a rate of £50 per month. He said this was not negotiable under any circumstances and that if the next payment was a single hour late he would remove goods from the house.
“My wife is in the advanced stages of Huntington’s Disease and as her full-time sole carer I am acutely aware of the immense harm and distress this affair has also caused her. The stress that caring for my wife alone puts on me has resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression and I am on a high dose of anti-depressants. This affair has taken its toll on my whole family to the extent I feel I may now be unable to carry on caring for my wife at home. “
Now Mr Pope has written to Rother asking for an investigation into: ‘The debt collector’s tactics of cold calling, refusal to acknowledge the vulnerability of an individual with mental illness who was significantly constrained in terms of his ability to engage appropriately, the threat to remove all furniture including that required for basic human needs and aggressive behaviour towards a vulnerable individual.’
Clive added: “He is now He in fear of leaving home, afraid the bailiff will return and break into his house.”
A Rother District Council spokesperson said: “We are investigating the matter and that is ongoing. We are in contact with the family and attempting to resolve the issue. We cannot comment further at this stage.”