A new regulatory body for bailiffs was launched on Wednesday as new figures reveal that over a third of families fear the cost-of-living crisis will force them into debt.
The Centre for Social Justice has reported that the number of enforcement orders and warrants across the UK has risen in recent years to an estimated 3.5 million annually.
As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies and people are forced into debt, the number of enforcement orders will likely increase.
New research commissioned by the ECB and conducted by Community Research found that almost one in four (24%) people are very worried about getting into serious debt over the next six months. This figure rises to over a third (36%) among families with children.
Local councils in England, which regularly use debt enforcement services, have £5bn worth of council tax payments still outstanding, an increase of £540m in the last two years, and the National Audit Office reports that the likely combined cost and non-tax income pressures following the pandemic may be as high as £9.7bn in the current financial year. This is likely to result in an increase in enforcement action.
Chair of the Enforcement Conduct Board, Catherine Brown said: ‘There are currently no mandatory standards for enforcement businesses and individual bailiffs to follow, and no effective independent oversight of their operations. We are pleased that the debt advice sector and the enforcement industry have come together to support the introduction of the ECB.
‘As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite in the months ahead, we will work to ensure that proper controls are put in place to make sure that everyone experiencing enforcement is fairly treated.’
Chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, Joanna Elson, said: ‘Households across the country had barely begun to emerge from the devastating financial impact of the pandemic before they were hit with the current cost-of-living crisis.
‘With these incredibly turbulent economic conditions driving more people into financial difficulty, raising standards across the enforcement industry and better protecting people in problem debt has never been more urgent. We are pleased that the Enforcement Conduct Board will work to deliver this, with a particular focus on protecting vulnerable people from further harm.’
It is hoped the new regulatory body for bailiffs will help improve standards across the Bailiff and Debt Collection industry.