CIVEA share reform plans at Enforcement Summit 2021.

CIVEA share reform plans at Enforcement Summit 2021.

The Enforcement Summit, produced by Parking Review, is an annual networking conference that provides a forum for discussion around the latest policy, legislative and operational developments in the field of civil traffic, parking and air pollution regulation. Parking managers, transport planners and urban professionals regularly attend this industry-leading conference and exhibition to learn about new technologies, discover new services and source suppliers for future needs. The event is also regularly attended by local authority officers, councillors, debt advisory services, parking operators and IT, legal, personal protection and body-cam suppliers.

Keynote speakers and expert panellists are invited each year to examine themes such as front-line enforcement, back-office operations, the role of civil enforcement agents, ongoing training requirements, assisting vulnerable debtors and refined approaches to the recovery of debts. The scope of the Enforcement Summit event encompasses council operations and naturally, being a virtual event due to COVID-19, the 2021 edition retained a focus on debt recovery during and post-lockdown.

One of the keynote speakers at this year’s summit was CIVEA Chief Executive Officer Russell Hamblin-Boone, who took the opportunity to share insight into some of the ways enforcement firms have successfully navigated the crisis, as well as outlining plans for future industry reforms. As the principal trade association representing over 95% of the entire enforcement industry in England and Wales, CIVEA led a voluntary suspension of enforcement visits a month ahead of the government statutory ban on 24th April 2020. In addition, it developed and rolled out the acclaimed post-lockdown support plan, implementing mandatory PPE training and regularly sharing updated public health advice to ensure that enforcement agents were able to return to work safely. Russell explained to attendees how an early re-engagement strategy had helped many people to avoid additional fees from being added to the outstanding debt. He explained the importance of identifying people with vulnerabilities at the pre-visit stage. When visits resumed agents were trained in health and safety procedures and social distancing rules. A strict policy of no entry to residential premises was adhered to. Agents were provided with appropriate equipment to take electronic contactless payments and were trained on contactless visits, which far exceeded the measures taken by couriers and grocery deliveries who were also able to visit homes at the time.

In explaining the path of improvement that was being followed by firms before the pandemic, delegates were given early details of the latest developments in a groundbreaking initiative that follows on from industry reforms, such as a revised code of practice, independent conduct monitoring and complaints adjudication. The Enforcement Conduct Authority (ECA) has been designed with the objectives of raising standards, improving accountability, adjudicating complaints and supporting vulnerable people. Russell explained that the ambition is for the ECA to develop new binding rules and set minimum standards that replace the National Standards, which no longer reflect the modern practices of enforcement. The aim is for there to be a requirement for all firms that wish to contract with local authorities to commit to oversight by the ECA. The ECA will have the power to impose sanctions for non-compliance with the new standards.

Among the reforms that the ECA will lead is an independent complaints mechanism with a simplified two-stage process. The next step will be the publication of a report by the Centre for Social Justice, which will include a framework for the new body. This will be followed by the appointment of a Board and key personnel. There will be ongoing engagement with the Government, which has advised that it will review the ECA after 2 years of operation.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion. Russell told the audience of well over 100 delegates that the oversight body would be funded by the industry, but retain strict independence from the enforcement and debt advice sectors.

The economic impact of the coronavirus is creating shortfalls in council budgets and the associated impact on local services must be addressed if vulnerable people are to be protected. But by sharing insight at industry-leading events like the Enforcement Summit 2021, promoting open discussions across the industry and continuing to emphasise the importance of the CIVEA code of practice, CIVEA ensures that its members have the tools to meet their responsibility to recover civil debt efficiently, effectively and safely.

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