StepChange: Government must act to protect COVID-19 affected from baliffs
With thousands struggling to make ends meet following the onset of COVID-19, StepChange is urging the government to act to regulate the bailiff industry and to implement additional measures to support those hardest hit by the pandemic.
The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) has confirmed plans to introduce a phased return of bailiff visits following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
But Peter Tutton, head of policy at StepChange Debt Charity, warned that those facing financialdifficulties need to be protected.
He said: “While we welcome CIVEA’s pledge to treat those affected by COVID-19 with additional consideration, we cannot entrust the duty of care of financially vulnerable people to an unregulated industry whose collection practices have caused significant harm in the past.
“Any return to enforcement action, phased or otherwise, must be preceded by government-led measures that protect those affected by COVID-19.
“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.
“Alongside temporary measures to help those affected by the pandemic, 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.
“With millions of people struggling with COVID-19 related debts, it is unfair and unsafe for the government to restart enforcement without these safeguards.”