MAT > Joanna's Blog > Making an impact with bailiffs

Making an impact with bailiffs

We have long voiced concerns around the extensive use of bailiffs to collect debts owed to local authorities. 2013 has so far been a year of progress on this issue.

In August we ran the biggest media story in the Trust’s 21 year history. Our research revealed local authorities had referred 1.8 million debts to bailiffs in the last 12 months, and we were pleased to be able to demonstrate the extent to which this issue was affecting households across England and Wales. But had we just left it there the effect would have been almost zero. Instead teams around the Trust have been working to make sure we can deliver positive change in the bailiff sector.

We have written to a number of local authorities, MPs, Government Ministers, and other stakeholders – making them aware of how important this issue is and that we have proactive, positive ideas for change. We are now working with a few selected local authorities to run pilots of different collections practices that should reduce bailiff referrals without hitting the councils’ bottom line. The first of these pilots will be run in Manchester with their council tax collection team.  

We have produced a short guide for advisers listing the ‘dos and don’ts’ to follow when dealing with bailiffs.  This covers the golden rules to follow: if a bailiff calls (including entry rights), making payments and complaining. This is being hosted on Wiseradviser and will support advisers around the country to help clients with bailiffs. We have also recently published a new National Debtline fact sheet to help people who need to complain about the activities of private bailiffs.

On the policy side we have been lobbying the Ministry of Justice and Department for Communities and Local Government for better regulation of bailiffs and local authorities. The Department for Communities and Local Government issued useful new guidance for local authorities towards the end of the Summer.

We have also developed two training programmes in relation to this work. The first is an e-learning module on Parking Penalties, which our research identified as a debt which frequently incurs bailiff visits. The training focuses on the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) procedure and appeal options available, and will enable advisers around the country to help clients on this topic. The training covers how to distinguish whether a client has a Penalty Charge Notice or a Parking Offence (fixed penalty) in the Magistrates’ court, who is responsible for paying the penalty charge, and the options available to the client to challenge the PCN prior to, and following, an ‘order for recovery’ being received.

The second piece of training we have developed is for bailiff companies themselves. We are working with the bailiff trade body, CIVEA, to improve the way in which bailiffs deal with vulnerable people. The training has been designed with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is also a source of income generation for the Trust.

Additionally the Trust has won funding from the Money Advice Service to develop a new free training course on bailiffs for debt advisers in charities, which will be available on Wiseradviser from April next year.

On top of all this our advice services are helping people deal with bailiffs around every seven minutes our phone lines are open.

It has been just a few months since our media campaign generated nationwide interest in the issue of bailiffs and teams across the Trust continue to work hard to utilise the impetus the short, sharp shock of media glare provided. We’ll keep you all updated with progress as this work develops. 

 

Best wishes,



 



 
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