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24 August, 2020 Open access

Rushed and premature return to bailiff activity will put people at risk, says StepChange

Given the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have hit struggling households hardest, the government should be helping people who have fallen behind, not making it harder for them to repay their debts

Today's 'rushed and premature' return to bailiff activity will put people at risk and make debts harder to repay, StepChange debt charity has said.

While the government introduced legislation in April 2020 to prevent enforcement agents taking control of goods in prescribed circumstances while the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown was in place, further legislation that came into effect on 24 June 2020 means that the ban on face-to-face bailiff collection came to an end on 23 August 2020.

In response, StepChange has said that the government’s own rationale for suspending activity - because financial pressures from firms and creditors would create the risk of poor practice and unnecessary visits which could endanger the health of both enforcement agents and debtors - has not changed.

In addition, while welcoming new 'Working safely' guidance for bailiffs published by the government on Friday in response to advice sector concerns about inadequate industry safeguards, StepChange says the government still has very little power to ensure bailiffs follow the rules when they return to work today.

StepChange adds that, given that the economic consequences of the crisis have hit struggling households hardest, the government should be helping people who have fallen behind, not making it harder for them to repay their debts.

Director of External Affairs at StepChange Richard Lane said today -

'This rushed and premature return to bailiff activity puts people at risk and will make debts harder to repay.

... We would question, while still in the midst of the crisis, whether bailiff visits are a useful way to deal with arrears from vulnerable households ...'

For more information, see Stepchange comment on the return of bailiff visits.