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Debt collection enforcement action halted during coronavirus crisis


Debt collection enforcement by bailiffs has been paused during the COVID-19 outbreak it has been confirmed.

News of the pause comes after the head of the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) addressed speculation that activity was still ongoing as the deadly virus continues to sweep the nation.

Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Civil Enforcement Association, addressed the rumors in a bid to offer peace of mind to Brits currently in ‘lockdown’.

“We have worked closely with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that people are protected during the coronavirus crisis,” he said.

“Despite the false information circulated by debt advice charities, enforcement agents are not enforcing debts.”

The suspension includes all collection of unpaid court fines, penalty charge notices, council tax and non-domestic business rates

Mr Hamblin-Boone went on to say furloughed agents had turned their focus to supporting the NHS during the pandemic, with many firms registering fleet vehicles for change of use to be used by volunteers.

He added: “Many agents are working with the NHS to support the voluntary initiative and many firms have changed the use of their fleet vehicles to support deliveries of supplies.

“Where people are being contacted it is to extend payment plans or offer payment holidays.”

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Enforcement activity suspended

As many people across the UK face an uncertain financial future CIVEA wrote to Local Government Minister Robert Jenrick to confirm suspension of civil enforcement for the time being.

The letter stated: “Along with many other activities public debt collection is rapidly being scaled back. In order to reduce the burden on families many local authorities are suspending or significantly reducing debt collection services.

“In order to protect staff and the public, CIVEA has provided best practice guidance to all our members. This has been discussed with Ministry of Justice officials and development in conjunction with the available government advice. I attach a copy for your information.

“In the last week, since the CIVEA guidance was published and government advice updated, there has been a complete suspension of enforcement visits, whether to recover unpaid court fines, penalty charge notices, council tax or non-domestic business rates.”

Repayment plans to be offered to vulnerable

The letter went on to say that where possible, a skeleton staff of enforcement agents will offer extensions to repayment plans and offer payment break to vulnerable Brits.

“Where a skeleton staff continues to operate remotely, local authorities have requested that a light-touch communication is maintained,” it continued.

As court proceedings are suspended and no new warrants or court orders being issued, CIVEA anticipates a backlog that will need to be processed and stated it believed it will be several months before the system is fully back online.

In the meantime, CIVEA and its members will continue to keep in close contact with officials to ensure that they continue to support the court system.

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Is there support available from creditors?

As shutters closed on businesses across the country this week and thousands of Brits find themselves in self-isolation, concerns grow about managing financial obligations.

If you are worried about being able to cover the cost of your bills during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to speak to the people you owe money to as soon as possible.

During these unprecedented times creditors and people, you owe money to are offering support to help those affected by the virus.

Mortgage providers are offering a range of measures, including a three- month payment break for homeowners, to offer a little breathing space. If you’re interested in finding out more, you should speak to your provider as soon as possible.

If you are struggling to cover the cost of unsecured debts, including personal loans or credit card bills, your provider may also offer advice and support to manage your repayments.

However, it’s important to remember if you find yourself asking your bank to increase your credit or overdraft limit for the time being this could have an impact on your credit file in the future.

If you’re worried about debt during the coronavirus outbreak, talk to Creditfix. We are taking this situation seriously and are proud to provide free, expert advice to those in need across the UK. To speak to one of our advisors, please call 0808 253 3299.

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