Universal credit & benefit sanctions make despair when bailiffs enforce debts against no income or inadequate income

3 May 2017

Prevention of the dire consequences (Debt-ridden courier's suicide after bailiff visit prompts call for reforms) of the mental stress created by the enforcement of debts, fines or council tax against inadequate incomes, exacerbated by the bailiffs and their fees, will require the attention of all relevant government departments.

Suicides following bailiff action are preventable if the authorities concerned make sure debtors know the steps that can be taken to stop the enforcement of a fine, debt or council tax by a bailiff in vulnerable situations.

Clauses 70-78 of Taking Control of Goods: National Standards covers "Vulnerable Situations". It enables the bailiffs "to contact the creditor and report the circumstances in situations where there is evidence of a potential cause for concern". Fine defaulters can also have write to the the Magistrates Court court and asked the magistrates to re-consider the case. Councils can remit council tax under Section 13A of the Local Government Fiance Act 2012. The Financial Conduct Authority has advised companies that "A vulnerable consumer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care".

However debtors can do nothing about the low pay, zeros hours contracts , agency work or a three month benefit sanction. The Universal Credit of £317 a month is derived from £73.10 a week single adult unemployment benefit; it has lost value since 1979. It is now so low it makes survival and the payment of fines, debts, council tax, court and bailiffs fees impossible.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, The Institute of Health Equity and many of others, have been telling government for decades that one in four adults will have a mental health problem at some point in their life. One in two adults with debts has a mental health problem. One in four people with a mental health problem is also in debt.

Universal credit and benefit sanctions create despair when debts are enforced by bailiffs against no income or inadequate income