Last week a report was published by a coalition of seven advice sector bodies arguing that the recent reforms to the enforcement industry commonly known as the TCE reforms (introduced in the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007) have had 'minimal impact' and making recommendations for further changes.
The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) represents over 2,000 certificated private sector enforcement agents operating throughout England and Wales. CIVEA's members enforce a wide variety of debts, including council tax, business rates, commercial rent arrears, magistrates' court fines and parking fines - collecting over £650m of unpaid taxes and fines for local authorities each year at no cost to the creditor.
In the face of continuing pressures on local authority budgets, the work CIVEA's members undertake is becoming increasingly important. But as the advice sector were right to point out, it is imperative that best practice is embraced and that any problems are addressed.
Ensuring that vulnerable people are provided with the right advice and support is a responsibility that CIVEA's members treat with the utmost seriousness. We have a range of measures to assist vulnerable people including welfare teams, third sector protocols, vulnerability training, multiple contact channels and a variety of payment methods.
We are keen that any continuing concerns are tackled effectively and are hoping that the advice sector organisations will be able to share more specific evidence of where practice can be improved so that we can work with them to do that.
CIVEA has been keen to understand the impact of the TCE reforms and recently undertook an anonymised survey of local authorities to find out their view. 96% of respondents said they believed the new regulatory regime had improved standards and professionalism and almost 99% of authorities felt the reforms have simplified the enforcement process - making it easier to understand for debtors.
But we are keen to explore anything that would make the system better still, and CIVEA welcomes any practical, evidence based suggestions to further improve industry standards and will be discussing the report's recommendations in more detail with the advice sector coalition.
CIVEA is keen to work with the advice sector and local authorities to continue to build on the successes of the TCE reforms to benefit debtors and creditors alike with the fairest and most effective system that we can collectively make.
Vernon Phillips is director general of the Civil Enforcement Association.