Provident Financial loaned cash to schizophrenic woman, Panorama claims (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Provident Financial loaned cash to schizophrenic woman, Panorama claims
One of Britain’s largest doorstep lenders based in Bradford gave thousands of pounds of loans to a schizophrenic woman despite knowing she was “not all there”, a Panorama investigation claimed today.
The BBC current affairs programme went undercover at Provident Financial , a FTSE 250 company with 1.8 million customers, and says it found cases of lending to customers which appeared to breach Office for Fair Trading (OFT) industry guidelines.
Panorama – Undercover: Debt on the Doorstep, broadcast tonight at 8.30pm on BBC1, interviewed the mother of the unnamed woman, who requires constant care for her condition but was allegedly given loans over several years.
“You can talk to (her) and anyone in their right mind would know she’s got an illness,” her mother told the programme. “She’s so vulnerable she just agrees to them (the loans). I want it all to stop.”
Provident said it had policies to prevent loans being given to people without the mental capacity to know what they are doing.
The programme also claims to show a Provident seller calling at another customer’s house and acknowledging that she didn’t think the woman could look after herself. The customer’s sister told Panorama: “They (the agents) would clearly be able to see just by looking around the house that she is vulnerable.” Gillian Guy, chief executive of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, told the programme: “I call into question...the motivation to keep exploiting people who clearly can’t be held responsible for their own decisions in that situation.”
The OFT’s guidelines for the industry state: “Borrowers who may be particularly vulnerable by virtue of their current indebtedness, poor credit history, or by reason of age or health, or disability, or for any other reason, should, in particular, not be targeted or exploited.”
According to its website, Provident Financial was established in Bradford in 1880 and has a network of 400 branches, administrative offices and call centres.
In a statement, the company said: “Provident has strict policies in place to prevent loans being advanced to anyone it believes does not have the mental capacity to understand the terms of the loan they are taking out, whilst at the same time ensuring that it does not discriminate against anyone, including those with mental illness but no loss of mental capacity.” It added: “(Provident Financial) is properly regulated and adheres strictly to the OFT’s guidelines on responsible lending.
“Provident takes great care to ensure that it only lends amounts appropriate to the personal circumstances of each customer.”