Shaping our industry for the challenges ahead.

Shaping our industry for the challenges ahead.

Paul Whyte, President of CIVEA, reflects on his appointment and considers what comes next.

I have held the CIVEA Presidency for just over four months and in that short time I have gained a new understanding of the value of a trade association.

Since my appointment, I have given evidence at a select committee hearing, lobbied government officials, attended parliamentary receptions, held meetings with legal teams and advised on media inquiries. There is a constant stream of issues that present threats and opportunities to our industry. The CIVEA executive is continually scanning the political horizon.

This has become quite challenging with the recent turmoil in Westminster. We had hoped to have a decision about the inflationary uplift for enforcement fees. Unfortunately, progress has been disrupted by the uncertainty in government with changes of ministers. With rising costs of fuel and energy, as well as other fees, we understand the financial pressures on members to meet their clients’ requirements. However, we have a good relationship with the Ministry of Justice and will continue to work with officials to reach a resolution on this critical issue.

Even without the political shenanigans, the cost-of-living crisis should dominate our business planning. There are still many councils that have not resumed full debt recovery activity and arrears are mounting. This shortfall in budgets is not sustainable when local authorities are under pressure to support vulnerable people in their communities. Enforcement agents have always played an essential role in identifying people in vulnerable circumstances. There are countless examples of enforcement agents being the first to make contact with individuals who have become overwhelmed by their circumstances and disengaged with their creditors.

Increasingly, enforcement firms are using technology to communicate with debtors through a variety of channels and using behavioural science to nudge people to act responsibly. Enforcement is a specialised form of debt recovery that is prescribed through detailed regulations, to give local authorities the powers to utilise the courts where people are not paying their outstanding debts. The on-going challenge for enforcement agents is to discern the reason for non-payment and to adapt their approach accordingly.

The cost-of-living crisis means that we will be dealing with more incidence of vulnerability and will be expected to support those in need, as much as we pursue those who are evading payment. The task for CIVEA will be to explain how we achieve this responsibly and sensitively. We need to help to educate the public about our role and improve confidence in warrant recovery and the execution of court orders to fund local services.

I am looking forward to working with the other CIVEA Officers to advance this campaign and shape our industry for the challenges ahead.

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