Laura Sharman 19 July 2016

Councils criticised for treatment of those in problem debt

Councils criticised for treatment of those in problem debt image

Local government is one of the worst sectors for treating people in problem debt unfairly, according to the results of a new survey.

A new report from debt charity StepChange found 42% of its clients had been treated unfairly by their local authority in relation to dealing with their debt.

Many said creditors were also failing to take vulnerabilities such as mental health problems and depression into account.

The report - Creditor and debt collector conduct: What’s making debt problems worse? – revealed the majority of those visited by bailiffs in the last two years said they had vulnerability beyond financial difficulties, with 86% saying the experience increased their levesl of stress.

Despite reforms to bailiff practices in 2014, nearly half (49%) said they’d had an intimidating doorstep visit, and 48% said the bailiff refused to accept an affordable repayment offer.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange, said: ‘People fall into debt for a variety of reasons including unemployment, illness and relationship breakdown, but the way in which creditors treat people in difficulty can have a significant impact on how long it takes that person to recover.

‘Ensuring that people in financial difficulty get the right support at the right time can make the difference between someone getting back on their feet or them being driven into deeper hardship.’

The charity is calling for people seeking debt advice to be given a period of six months to a year in which enforcement action is halted and interest and charges are frozen.

In response, the Local Government Association (LGA) said counciks only use bailiffs to recover debt a last resort. A spokesperson said: ‘Councils have a duty to their residents to collect debt such as unpaid council tax, so important services are not affected. But they realise that times are tough and do their best to protect those affected the most, whether through introducing hardships funds or taking a sympathetic and constructive approach to the way unpaid tax is collected.

‘Before the situation reaches a stage where bailiffs are involved several letters should have been written, people should have been encouraged to apply for financial support, and efforts should be made to arrange new payment plans or to attach the debt to a salary.’

Overcoming the barriers to Commercial Card use image

Overcoming the barriers to Commercial Card use

Want to reap the benefits of Commercial Cards but coming up against some challenges? James Sykes, Head of Commercial Cards, Lloyds Bank and David Legg, Head of Corporate Card Products, Lloyds Bank, discuss how the payments industry is helping organisations unlock their true value.
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Planning Policy Manager

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£61.470 - £64.704
Be part of Greenwich's vision to successfully accommodate a high level of sustainable growth, which... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Refuse Driver (Rolling Advert - applications checked weekly)

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£30.032 - £31.610
It is an exciting time in Street Services at the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Be part of a team who are... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Commercial Contracts and Procurement Solicitor

North Yorkshire County Council
£32,910 to £43,857
Due to positive growth we are looking for Solicitors to join our Commercial Contracts and Procurements team. Homeworking
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

General Legal Counsel – Corporate and Commercial

North Yorkshire County Council
£39,880 to £43,857
Are you looking for a legal career which is rewarding and offers the perfect blend of public and private sector working? Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Corporate Credit Control Officer

Camden London Borough Council
The post holder will act as the expert point of contact on all issues to instigate and conduct cases of appointee ship. Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue