Debby Clarke had a phone call from her distressed 87-year-old mother last month. She was told that her sister Nicola, who has severe learning disabilities, was distraught after being unable to pay for her care provider.
It eventually turned out that Nicola, of Bangor, North Wales, had been sold an expensive loan by payday lender the Money Shop and had used her disability living allowance – which is earmarked to cover the cost of her care – to make a payment to the lender.
"This seems to me a clear case of inappropriate lending to a very vulnerable person," said Debby. "Nicola has limited verbal, numeracy and conceptual abilities and can't understand the consequences of taking out a loan, let alone have the ability to repay it."
Debby contacted the company to complain but despite assurances that it would deal with the problem it continued to call Nicola's care home and her mother, chasing the debt, causing distress to all.
In desperation Debby turned to The Independent. We contacted Dollar Financial, a US payday lending giant that owns the 350-strong Money Shop chain as well as PaydayUK online.
To its credit, the company responded quickly and positively. In a statement it said: "Events surrounding a loan to Ms Powell are a disappointment not only to her and her family but to The Money Shop itself.
"This does not reflect our practices and we apologise unreservedly while, of course, ceasing pursuit of the loan. The person responsible has now left the company."