How collaboration enhances the enforcement process

How collaboration enhances the enforcement process.

Welcome to our blog series, exploring the key topics being discussed in the enforcement industry. Today we reflect on collaborative developments happening in enforcement and discuss why this is a positive step towards the future.

An indicator of the strength of any business sector is its ability to set aside commercial advantage to collaborate on issues for the common good. Within the last year, the need for direct collaboration has become more evident. Open and collective industry discussions have been essential to develop ground-breaking industry initiatives in response to the crisis. Increased collaboration can often lead to better communications and cohesive approaches on critical themes.

CIVEA itself is collaborative in nature, regularly working with member firms and in conjunction with local authorities, the voluntary sector and a variety of industry commentators. Our independent CARE panel ensures compliance to our code of practice and sets the standard for improvement based on a reform agenda.

A willingness to collaborate across our member firms was fundamental to the development of the CIVEA Post-lockdown Support Plan. Our members prepared a universally agreed re-connection letter last year and committed to a vulnerability identification phase that ensured all of those in debt were aware of the restart of enforcement activity, communicating what we were doing to ensure their safety. Collectively over two million templated letters were sent out by CIVEA members to re-engage with people in debt and this ensured a consistent, appropriate, and safe response. The same approach was applied to PPE, with universal training and requirements devised, implemented, and shared.

CIVEA went on to publish a detailed report based on a survey of 21 enforcement firms and their field agents after visits to residential sites had resumed. Without the willingness of our members to be collaborative on this, we would not have been able to produce such a balanced, candid and first-hand account of the challenge enforcement agents faced. Reviewing these responses allowed us to spot where additional training or guidance was needed, better inform the Ministry of Justice and provide insight into the reaction of debtors.

Unsurprisingly, collaboration with local authorities is essential to the enforcement process. This is especially true since the coronavirus crisis, with additional pressure on budgets and the direct impact this has on essential local services. Equally important is how closely CIVEA and its members work with the voluntary and debt advice sector. Whilst we have differing perspectives, many of our ambitions and goals are shared. Such as developing the most efficient solution to reduce problem debts and providing the highest level of support to vulnerable people.

Several CIVEA members work with the Money Advice Trust to design and deliver specialist training programmes to support vulnerable people. We have compiled a list of dedicated contact numbers that give debt advisers direct access to welfare teams to support vulnerable cases, which allows them to by-pass the general contact lines in certain cases. As well as giving significant financial support, through FairShare contributions, our members receive vulnerability training from debt advice experts and have very strong local relationships with debt advisers. Enforcement firms also operate welfare teams who liaise with debt advisers on the more complex cases.

Many of our members sponsor debt advisers working in local council offices and local Citizens Advice bureaux. We are active supporters of the Money Advice Liaison Group and a number of members have taken up corporate membership and have provided additional sponsorship. CIVEA facilitated a presentation from the Vulnerability Registration Service, as part of a drive to increase its membership and last year, assisted Christians Against Poverty in securing commercial relationships with all of our largest members.

This year, CIVEA has already collaborated with the High Court Enforcement Officers Association and Just, an enforcement outsourcing service, to jointly welcome the High Court judgment on non-entry Controlled Goods Agreements issued in January 2021and to invite the Ministry of Justice to review the judgment and provide statutory guidance.

Innovation has become a necessity for most since the first lockdown began. In enforcement, we have successfully worked together as an industry and successfully found a safe and secure way to continue enforcement activity. Collaborative mindsets have enabled CIVEA members to support local authority reduce budget shortfalls and to help the courts administer the judicial process. There must always be a collective effort made in order to achieve long-lasting positive change and for that reason, CIVEA will continue to promote the benefits of a unified approach fostering ongoing constructive conversation and effective resolutions whenever this is possible.

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