Shergroup Archive | Shergrouper Bernie Simon working as part of our Debtors Services Team

Are You Using a Warrant of Control Centre? | We Ask Why?

The march of HMCTS to modernize and digitize its function continues – and on many levels we support these initiatives.  The delivery of justice is vital in our democracy and should be as accessible and cost effective as we can make it.

Obviously, our heritage services of enforcing judgment debts and orders for possession, cross over with the work of HMCTS in its own enforcement function.  As such we continue to question the need for this function and the investment that is made to get it right.  We do so on the basis that this is easily a piece of HMCTS that could be moved to private operators – namely High Court Enforcement Officers – and yes, we must declare a vested interest in saying this.

But this piece caught our eye when it was reported that HMCTS are creating 12 warrant of control support centres across England and Wales.  The cost of these centres was not reported but the idea of them is to engage with debtors using the information supplied on the warrant application form.  Really?  We have been doing that for 15 years here at Shergroup.  We engage with our debtor community right from the time the Notice of Enforcement is served and continue to do so even when the High Court Enforcement Agent is on the doorstep.  Beyond that we continue to engage and manage payment plans and report back to creditors on any issue of vulnerability.  Apparently these new centres set up at an undisclosed cost to the taxpayer will give the debtor 12 days to pay before the Warrant is handed over to the county court bailiff.  Our CEO, Claire Sandbrook, wonders if they got the idea from Shergroup!

The advisors in these new centres will be “able to signpost debtors to appropriate debt advice charities”.  They will also be tasked to look for signs of vulnerability and signpost and advise the debtors to support systems (emphasis added by us).

Don’t get us wrong – the need to engage and support people is debt is an issue that we strongly support but in the enforcement arena it has to be balanced against the rights of the judgment creditor or claimant to enforce their judgment or order.

They are all sorts of reasons why this initiative lacks the appearance of balance.  Even as we write this blog one of our client community solicitors has written to advise us to expect an Order for Possession to be received while she is on holiday, but she is experiencing severe delays with Willesden County Court.  This Court is renowned for being slow to transfer judgments and orders and there are other Courts we could name.

Judgment Creditors will receive limited support from this new 12 centre system.  They can inform the centre that the warrant has been suspended, tell the Centre what to do if the debtor is found to be vulnerable and respond to a request for further information.

Oh dear!  Not much customer service there for those waiting for the court system to complete the task for enforcing the judgment or order.

In our world we do all this very differently.  Firstly, the creditor and the claimant get the sort of service you would hope for if you walked into John Lewis.  The product is explained, the pricing is set out, and our expert Business Solutions Advisors are there to support the client through the entire enforcement process.

We don’t start to get into the vulnerability of a person until they have been visited by an enforcement agent and the reason for this is that we want to see the extent of the vulnerability.  We are expecting to do more work around assessing vulnerability on a subjective standard in the months ahead as we feel there is a gap in knowledge on this in the enforcement industry at large.  We are also working on plans to make the engagement with our debtor community far more innovative and move them on.

So, what is the cost of all this management and support for both parties to the judgment or order?  Our infrastructure is in place.  The innovation is paid for from the fees we charge as High Court Enforcement Officers which are set by statute.  There is no cost to the public purse.  And in both areas, we are engaged and interested in the needs of the parties.

If you have used the Government online systems to issue a money claim and you have entered judgment which is over £600 (and is not regulated) then we have an entire alternative service to support, you in the quest to enforce that judgment.  You can call us on 0845 890 9200 or chat to us on www.shergroup.com (24 x7) and we can give you the support you need.   

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