New figures provided by High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) show that the profession’s post-lockdown plan is working well after Government restrictions on enforcement activity were lifted.
Almost 25,500 visits were made to judgment debtors on behalf of HCEOs during September – the first full month of activity after enforcement restrictions were lifted on 24 August.
During September there were less than 100 complaints made to members of the High Court Enforcement Officers’ Association (HCEOA) – a complaint per visit rate of less than 0.3%.
Just four of these complaints, which have yet to be upheld or rejected, related to Covid-19 safe working practices, indicating that enforcement agents have been operating in line with the HCEOA’s post-lockdown plan.
The plan, called “A Flexible and Sympathetic Approach to Enforcement” sets out the principles, working practices and behaviours that all High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) and their representatives will follow throughout the phased lifting of the lockdown period.
In line with Government guidance, the plan details:
- Additional training requirements for all enforcement agents prior to any home visits
- The need to follow appropriate social distancing guidance where possible
- The provision of protective equipment and hygiene supplies to ensure the visiting member of staff protect themselves, debtors and members of the public whilst at work
- The criteria under which enforcement visits to residential addresses will take place
HCEOA members and clients have also been increasing early engagement via a variety of methods including SMS, letter and phone calls with judgment debtors to put in place payment arrangements remotely and minimise the need for home visits.
HCEOs have also unanimously agreed to a request from the Lord Chancellor not to undertake any eviction activity between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021 to ensure no-one is evicted over the Christmas period.
Andrew Wilson, Chairman of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association, said: “This shows that high court enforcement officers and our agents are working within both the letter and spirit of Covid-19 regulations. Whilst the number of visits our members make is much smaller than the number by colleagues who are members of CIVEA, it is an important barometer of how seriously the profession is taking the health and safety of the public at this challenging time.”
He added: “Equally, cashflow and debt recovery is a very serious issue for businesses right now. Enforcement is essential to support companies who are owed money through no fault of their own to claim the money that is due to them. If they can’t recover this unpaid money, then what happens is they end up going bust and become debtors themselves and there is a knock-on effect throughout the economy.”