People that have adont-judge-me-that-column-1 bad credit file aren’t bad people. And credit repair companies aren’t trying to get them out of their financial obligations.

This is the feedback I sometimes get. In my opinion it’s a completely wrong view.

Who is the typical credit-impaired person? They are usually pretty ordinary people. A credit-impaired person could be your relative, friend, neighbour, a work colleague, or maybe even your friendly professional. The fact is that 1 in 5 people in Australia have an impairment on their credit file. Last month we assisted a broker as well as a barrister. We also had the CEO of a large company whom we helped.

People are usually quite good at hiding their difficulties from others because of the shame that is associated with being in financial distress. But as advocates, we are trained never to judge a potential client. Certainly not after hearing their side of the story. We investigate each clients situation, and base our work on the hard data that listing company’s must provide to us.

Most credit files that we work on have a single adverse listing. Only rarely do people have 10 or 15 negative listings. In cases with a high number of defaults or judgments, however, there is still a good chance we can successfully erase all or most of the listings.

In our experience, there are quite predictable circumstances that lead to black marks on credit files. The top reasons why people have these listings are due to a recent separation or divorce, an illness, an accident or a job loss. For some of our clients English is a second language, and they simply have not understood their obligations. Other times clients with a bad credit file have been nursing ill family members and dealing with absolutely tragic circumstances. They are not bad people.

To give some idea of the extent of the life challenges that may lead to a poor credit score, Beyond Blue says that almost 45 per cent of Australians will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people. And the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded that there were 48,517 divorces granted in Australia in 2015. That’s a whole world of difficulty splitting financial arrangements.

A note also about the idea that we get people out of their financial obligations. It is simply untrue. Every day we facilitate accounts being paid, or set up payment plans. We have a holistic view of people’s financial circumstances and aim to put our clients into a better financial position after we do our work.

So look around. Credit-impaired people are not as bad, or as rare, as you think.