Taking Control – plea to act on bailiff reform

18 February 2020

A group of cross-party MPs and Peers has joined a coalition of debt advice Taking Control campaigners in urging the Government to break its silence on bailiff industry reform.

Today marks a year since the Ministry of Justice closed its call for evidence on the bailiff industry, but despite overwhelming evidence of the need for wide-ranging reform, the Government is yet to give a comprehensive response.

The Taking Control coalition, made up of 11 charities and debt advice organisations, has routinely seen its clients suffer at the hands of bailiffs. New figures show that since February 2019, Citizens Advice alone has been contacted by 41,121 individuals with 111,081 issues specific to bailiffs.

Backing the coalition’s call is a group of cross-party politicians, including Rachel Reeves MP and Lord Pickles, who have today written to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland MP highlighting the urgent need for bailiff reform as recommended by the Justice Select Committee last April.

The Committee endorsed the charities’ call for the introduction of an independent complaints body, a statutory, independent regulator for the enforcement agent industry and regular reviews of bailiff fees. Currently, the bailiff industry is self-regulating.

To date the only commitment made by the government is making body-worn cameras mandatory for private bailiffs, but, without independent regulation, this measure will not be enough.

Letter co-authored by Rachel Reeves and Eric Pickles

The letter calls on the Government to “act now” to reform debt collection practices, by “bringing in stronger regulation and effective oversight”. Critiquing 2014 reforms which intended to resolve persistent problems in the industry, the letter, co-authored with Conservative peer Lord Pickles, goes on to explain that “83% of callers to National Debtline who had experienced bailiff action reported that the bailiff visit had a negative impact on their wellbeing”.

The sending of the letter coincides with the one year anniversary of the closure of the Ministry of Justice’s Call for Evidence on enforcement agent reforms. It was co-signed by nine MPs including Hilary Benn and Stephen Crabb, and four peers including Lord Howarth and Baroness Meacher.

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