Citizens Advice Ipswich is throwing its weight behind a campaign for an independent regulator to crack down on badly behaved bailiffs.
New figures from Citizens Advice England and Wales and debt charity StepChange suggest that 850,000 of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years were victims of bailiffs breaking the rules.
Of the people affected by, or who witnessed a bailiff breaking the rules, 1 in 5 (18%) had seen unsympathetic treatment of someone with an illness or disability, 1 in 6 (17%) had a break-in threatened, and 1 in 10 had tools or a vehicle removed which were needed for their work.
In the last two years Citizens Advice Ipswich helped 196 people dealing with bailiffs for debts such as council tax arrears, parking fines, and magistrates’ court fines. And the frequency of client contacts concerning bailiffs is on the rise.
In one example, Citizens Advice Ipswich helped a client who was suffering with depression and anxiety after giving birth and was in arrears with her council tax. The bailiff refused to consider a payment arrangement and told her that if she didn’t pay up she would be arrested and her children taken into care. This caused the client’s mental health to deteriorate further.
Rule-breaking bailiffs often cause people more stress, anxiety and financial hardship, according to the research published on Tuesday. When someone had a negative experience with a bailiff:
- 7 in 10 reported increased stress and anxiety
- 1 in 2 experienced knock-on effects on their finances, with 1 in 6 people (17%) taking out additional credit to pay the bailiffs
Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:
“The government must step in and regulate the industry to prevent people suffering at the hands of bailiffs who flout the rules. It beggars belief an industry that can cause so much damage is not properly policed by a regulator. We see first-hand the widespread harm the actions of bailiffs and the companies they work for inflict on people and their families. It must stop. The evidence is clear, the Ministry of Justice has no option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”