Working parents being chased by bailiffs over debts

More than a fifth of people who have a bailiff problem are working parents, according to new figures from Citizens Advice.

This is certainly a worr…

More than a fifth of people who have a bailiff problem are working parents, according to new figures from Citizens Advice.

This is certainly a worrying statistic as these individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to secure enough funds for their monthly necessary expenditure and childcare costs.

The national charity also revealed parents are more likely to have bailiffs knocking at the door chasing debts than any other household in the country, with half of people who received advice being families with dependent children.

In terms of employment, there is little separating families with work and those without. Some 46 per cent have jobs compared to 54 per cent who do not.

However, there is a distinct north-south divide when it comes to the scale of bailiff problems.

For example, the north-east accounted for a sixth of all bailiff problems handled by the Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales, while one in 25 problems in the region are to do with bailiffs compared to just one in 100 in the south-west.

Meanwhile, half of the people in the east Midlands who reported a bailiff problem are a family.

The Citizens Advice Bureaux has encountered individuals with a range of problems who are being chased by bailiffs, including council tax arrears and unpaid parking tickets, as well as loans and credit card debt.

It said it helped 38,262 individuals with over 60,000 bailiff issues between April 2012 and March 2013 and a third of them were for council tax debts.

In April 2013, the number of people seeking online help on how to deal with bailiffs almost tripled, rising to over 20,000 from just under 7,000 in the same month last year.

The findings highlight ongoing concerns that a shift from council tax benefits to localised support schemes could see more families struggling to pay their bills, meaning bailiffs are sent round.

On top of this, evidence from the charity showed private bailiffs frequently overstate their powers, act aggressively and bump up debts by levying excessive and illegal fees and charges. This has become a major problem in the UK and more needs to be done to combat it.

Citizens Advice is now calling on local authorities to sign up to its good practice protocol on council tax debts, which includes commitments such as promoting help available to those who are struggling and offering different payment date options for council tax payers so they become able to budget more effectively.

Chief executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said: "The prospect of a bailiff knocking at the door of a family home is terrifying for anyone, particularly parents with kids at home. Mums and Dads don't want their children to know about their money worries, but when a person is standing on their doorstep demanding money, it is unavoidable and frightening for all of the family."

The government has already announced plans to clamp down on rogue bailiffs from April 2014, which will include banning them from entering homes at night or when only children are present. However, Citizens Advice is concerned the changes do not address the fundamental flaw of a lack of proper controls and consequences for bailiff companies.

By Joe White

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