Concerns Raised as Bailiffs Prepare for Post-Lockdown Return

June 5, 2020

Debt help charities have expressed concern at the announcement that bailiffs will soon be phasing back in their activities following a hiatus brought about by the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

It has been announced by the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) that bailiffs will be returning to work and pursuing unpaid debts again once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The organisation has revealed details of what it calls a ‘Post Lockdown Support Plan’ but there are nonetheless concerns about what impact bailiff activities might have on people who’ve seen their financial situations badly impacted by recent events and by coronavirus.

CIVEA has said its members will be treating debtors with additional consideration post-lockdown and giving people 30 days’ notice of any enforcement action.

However, charities including StepChange are still worried about how vulnerable people might be affected by being pursued by bailiffs.

“Any return to enforcement action, phased or otherwise, must be preceded by government-led measures that protect those affected by COVID-19,” said StepChange’s head of policy Peter Tutton.

“This includes putting affordable repayment plans in place for council tax arrears before resorting to enforcement action, and taking into account vulnerability and financial circumstances before acting.”

StepChange also wants to see more thorough regulations brought in to structure the activities of bailiffs and debt collectors in the interests of providing better protections for people who struggle to fend off their creditors.

“The government must finally act to regulate the bailiff industry and bring the sector up to the standards of consumer protection common elsewhere in debt recovery,” said Mr Tutton from StepChange.

“With millions of people struggling with COVID-19 related debts, it is unfair and unsafe for the government to restart enforcement without these safeguards,” he added.

CIVEA’s chief executive Russell Hamblin-Boone has said in a statement that his organisation’s members “fully accept that to simply restart enforcement visits once the government eases restrictions without understanding how people have been impacted by the crisis would not be acceptable”.

“The measures included in the Post-lockdown Support Plan are a sensible and proactive response to an exceptional situation,” he said.

Paul Barber

Head Adviser at our Manchester Office

Tel: 0800 001 4247

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