Enforcement Agents (bailiffs) will implement a phased return to activity following the lifting of lockdown restrictions. The measures are set out in a Post-lockdown Support Plan announced today by the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA).
CIVEA consulted the government on the Post-lockdown Support Plan that will mean local authorities and courts can safely enforce overdue council tax, business rates, parking and traffic penalties and magistrates’ court fines.
Anyone who has missed a payment or been out of contact will receive a standard reconnection letter that seeks to understand how they have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and respond as appropriate. When enforcement can resume following the lifting of emergency regulations, individuals will be given 30 days’ notice of a visit by an enforcement agent (unless the local authority has specific requirements).
Before resuming visits all enforcement agents will be given additional, mandatory CIVEA-approved training on how to protect themselves and those that they encounter in the community. In addition:
Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of CIVEA, explained: “CIVEA members fully accept that to simply restart enforcement visits once the Government eases restrictions without understanding how people have been impacted by the crisis would not be acceptable. The measures included in the Post-lockdown Support Plan are a sensible and proactive response to an exceptional situation. Enforcement of public debt continues to be an important service to recover outstanding taxes and fines, which contributes to funding essential local services. Our Plan allows us to carry out our civic duties in line with public health advice.”
Notes to editors:
All enforcement visits by CIVEA members were suspended voluntarily by 23 March 2020 at the latest. All other activity, such as issuing of Notices of Enforcement, reminder letters and outbound calls was reduced. On 25 April, the Ministry of Justice implemented regulations (The Taking Control of Goods and Certification of Enforcement Agents (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020) to prevent enforcement at residential premises and on the highway.
The Post-lockdown Support Plan involves:
30-day notice of enforcement visit - Enforcement visits will only take place after 30 days’ notice and after the lifting of lockdown restrictions (unless the local authority has specific requirements). This is to provide sufficient opportunity for engagement with customers prior to the attendance of an Enforcement Agent, which could prevent additional fees being added to the outstanding debt.
Training – A new compulsory training programme has been designed that will include: the effective use of protective equipment and social distancing requirements, how to protect themselves and those that they encounter in the community. In addition, agents will receive refresher training on supporting the vulnerable and recognising mental health issues.
Pre-visit Assessment - CIVEA members will make outbound calls in advance of enforcement visits in an effort to identify any vulnerabilities or changes in circumstances.
Post-lockdown visits - Enforcement visits will restart only when the government lockdown restrictions that cover such activity are lifted. Agents will not enter domestic premises to take control of goods.
Data collection and recording - All CIVEA members will collect and record details of customer vulnerabilities, in line with data protection requirements e.g. customer consent, and develop support plans that reflect CIVEA’s guidance on assessing the impact of COVID-19 on households.
Provision of protective equipment - Enforcement agents will practice social distancing, comply with enhanced hygiene techniques (including disinfecting their kit) and be issued with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer etc. This is in full compliance with the Government and Public Health England advice.
The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) is the principal trade association representing civil enforcement agencies operating in England and Wales.
Contact: Russell Hamblin-Boone 07810 374110
PO Box 745
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