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‘Time has come’ for independent bailiff regulation

​Money Advice Trust welcomes Justice Select Committee report endorsing calls for independent regulation of bailiffs

MPs on the Justice Select Committee have today (Thursday 11th April) joined calls for independent regulation of bailiffs, following its inquiry into growing concerns raised by debt advice and other charities about the impact of bailiff action on people in problem debt.

The Ministry of Justice recently concluded its own call for evidence on the impact of reforms introduced in 2014, which the Taking Control group of debt advice charities say have failed to resolve systemic problems with the bailiff industry.
Research by the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, has shown that 2.3 million debts were passed to bailiffs by local authorities in England and Wales in 2016/17 – an increase of 14% on two years previously.  The majority of these debts (1.38 million) were council tax arrears.
83% of National Debtline callers surveyed who had experienced bailiff action reported a negative impact on their wellbeing.
Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, gave oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry in January.  She said: 
“The time has come for the government to put an end to problems in the bailiff industry once and for all. 
“Our advisers hear first-hand the impact bailiff action has on the emotional and financial wellbeing of the people we help. Continuing problems reported include bailiffs failing to accept offers of repayment and some using aggressive and threatening behaviour on the doorstep.
“The Justice Select Committee’s endorsement of independent regulation is another sign of the growing momentum behind calls for change – and we hope Ministers will now bring forward proposals as a matter of urgency.
“As well as independent regulation of bailiffs and a clear, independent complaints mechanism, we need to see action to reduce the use of bailiffs to collect debts in the first place. 
“Local authorities, in particular, referred 2.3 million debts to bailiffs in 2016/17 in England and Wales.  Councils need to do much more to help people who fall behind at a much earlier stage – and should only ever use bailiffs as a last resort.”
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