How the Council deals with vulnerable debtors (9 questions) (FOI-277)
am currently undertaking a project to look at how Vulnerability is managed within the Collection cycle/s at the Council for all debt types.
Could you please provide the following –
1. Do you have any specialist staff who specifically deal with vulnerable debtor cases, if yes please provide a copy of the Job Description/s for staff operating in this role and their appropriate salary range
2. A copy of your debt policy/collection policy (or similar document) that shows how Vulnerability is detected/actioned/managed
3. How do you identify and validate Vulnerability
4. How is Vulnerability promoted on your website – Can you provide copies of the links utilised.
5. Details of the external support agencies/organisations that you engage with such as Stepchange/MIND/ Citizens Advice etc
6. Does your debt system link to other council systems/ data sources to identify potential vulnerability?
7. Details of any external sources/providers of data that you utilise to notify you of any person experiencing Vulnerability
8. Are you BS 18477 Registered
9. Please provide any other information you consider may be of assistance.
Many Thanks for your assistance, I am happy to receive responses via letter or email.
Dear Ms ****
Re: Freedom of Information Request.
Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, received 13 June 2018. We would like to offer our sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your enquiry.
Your request has been considered and our response is in bold below.
You requested the following:
Could you please provide the following –
Hackney is working to introduce one corporate debt recovery policy that covers the whole council. However while this is still being enacted, there will be slightly differences in policies across different service areas and departments.
With regard to Housing Benefit Overpayment Recovery, Council Tax Reduction overpayment, and Council Tax Recovery we can confirm the following
- Do you have any specialist staff who specifically deal with vulnerable debtor cases, if yes please provide a copy of the Job Description/s for staff operating in this role and their appropriate salary range
The service does not have specialist staff who specifically deal only with vulnerable debtors. However, all our staff are trained on vulnerability, and would be expected to pick up where a debtor may be more vulnerable than an average claimant, and act in an appropriate manner.
- A copy of your debt policy/collection policy (or similar document) that shows how Vulnerability is detected/actioned/managed
Please find attached:
- Our general debt/ collection policy attached which relates to Vulnerable cases.
- The relevant sections of our Housing Benefit overpayment recovery guidance where it refers to writing off Housing Benefit overpayments due to Vulnerability.
- How do you identify and validate Vulnerability
This is outlined in the attached guidance.
Generally vulnerable individuals could include but are not limited to the elderly, people with mental health problems, the disabled, those with learning difficulties or acquired brain damage, people who misuse substances, and Victims of domestic violence, abuse or hate crime.
However, not everyone in the above categories will be vulnerable, and people could be vulnerable who fall outside of these groups. Therefore, we will also consider whether individuals are vulnerable due to Financial detriment, an inability to seek advice, an inability to make informed decisions, a risk of harm to themselves, or others, or those at a risk of being treated unfairly.
In all cases we will examine whether someone lacks the mental capacity to understand what is happening, or lacks capacity to manage their finances and post. We will consider whether they have a carer or support worker, and whether they are known to social services. Before commencing enforcement action we would consider whether enforcement action would cause distress to the extent that it could impact on their mental or physical health, including feeling suicidal.
- How is Vulnerability promoted on your website – Can you provide copies of the links utilised.
Although there is nothing on vulnerability that specifically refers to debt recovery. There is a lot of information on support for vulnerable adults including those with mental health issues which can be found at https://hackney.gov.uk/social-support.
- Details of the external support agencies/organisations that you engage with such as Stepchange/MIND/ Citizens Advice etc
The website promote relevant independent advice agencies including:
- Money Advice Service, tel 0300 500 5000
- Hackney Money Smart (council or housing association tenants only), tel 020 8525 6354
- Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau (reception), tel 020 8525 6350
- Toynbee Hall, tel 020 7247 6943
- National Debtline, tel 0808 808 4000
- Step Change, tel 0800 138 1111
- Hackney Credit Union, tel 020 7729 9218
- Fair Finance, tel 020 8988 0627
We also have a leaflet (as attached) which gives details about where individuals can go for advice in Hackney
- Does your debt system link to other council systems/ data sources to identify potential vulnerability?
Our debt system does cross reference records held by Housing (rents), Housing Benefit, and Council Tax for vulnerability.
- Details of any external sources/providers of data that you utilise to notify you of any person experiencing Vulnerability
Our external Enforcement Agencies, including Marston, Equita, Newlyn all supply details of vulnerable customers, as & when they are identified through their specific policies & procedures, and the recovery process is delayed as soon as vulnerability is identified.
- Are you BS 18477 Registered
No we are not BS 18477 registered
- Please provide any other information you consider may be of assistance
The revenue contract with our enforcement agents (bailiffs) specifically includes vulnerability and how such cases should be dealt with - whether temporary vulnerability (eg financial/pregnancy) or permanent.
Appeals & Complaints Procedure
If you are dissatisfied with this response and wish to appeal, please write to the Information Management Team, [email protected] and this will be dealt with through our Internal Review procedure.
Your request for an internal review should be submitted to us within 40 working days of receipt by you of this response. Any such request received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of the Council.
If you are still not satisfied following the Internal Review, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at the contact details provided below.
Information Commissioner"s Office
Telephone: 01625 545 700
Information Management Team