Today I joined a cross-party group of senior MPs – including three Select Committee Chairs and two former Tory Cabinet members – in writing to the Justice Secretary calling for proper regulation of bailiffs. Concerns over the approach of bailiffs have long been raised by debt advice agencies and other charities that I’ve worked with as a Vice-Chair of the All-Party Group on Debt and Personal Finance.
Having debts collected by bailiffs is a common experience. In 2016/17, for example, local authorities in England and Wales used bailiffs to collect debts 2.3 million times and bad practice disproportionately affects those in vulnerable situations. Despite reforms to bailiff law in 2014, people in financial difficulty continue to report widespread problems with the behaviour of bailiffs and bailiff firms.
Our letter highlights the problems with bailiffs using collection practices that impose charges which increase the level of debts face by those already in difficulty, instances of threatening behaviour and seizure of third party goods – leading to 83% of callers to National Debtline who had faced bailiff action saying that it had affected their wellbeing.
In our letter (below) we call for the Government to act on the conclusion of a consultation that concluded over a year ago, by clearer regulations and independent oversight with a proper complaints procedure.