Policy change campaigns
At PayPlan, our team of experts work hard to shine a light on key issues across the sector. In this section, you’ll find information on our key reports and where we support other organisations with their campaigning, such as:
- Council Tax – campaign to end imprisonment
- Bailiff reform
- Breathing space and statutory debt repayment plans
- The Fairness Group
- GamCare’s Advisory Panel
Our client communications team regularly conducts client surveys to show the impact that everyday issues have on individual’s lives. Read more on that in our research and awareness campaigns section.
Preventing Council Tax imprisonment
In November 2019, our policy team, alongside the Institute of Money Advisers (IMA), turned up the heat on MPs and major political parties to end the imprisonment of Council Tax arrears.
Nearly 700 people have been imprisoned for being behind with council tax since 2010. England is now the only jurisdiction in Western Europe that imprisons people for local tax debt. In 2017, a judicial review found that up to 17% of council tax jailing’s were likely to have been unlawful.
We believe that prison should be reserved for serious criminals who pose a threat to society – not for people who have not paid a local bill. Our updated reports explain that imprisoning people with council tax debt is expensive for the taxpayer and does nothing to ensure the debt is paid back. In fact, it puts imprisoned individuals and their families in a worse position. The average cost of a place in prison in 2015/16 was £32,510 a year, or £88 a day.
Alistair Chisholm, Head of Advice Sector Policy and Partnerships at PayPlan, commented:
“Imprisonment serves little purpose because the debt still remains at the end. Instead of being supported with realistic payment plans, too often people are being penalised with court fees and harsh collection activity by their local council.”
Download the three reports that we have produced with the Institute of Money Advisers:
- I can’t believe we still do that
- The best kept secret in council tax law
- Keeping court for the last resort
In addition to the work that PayPlan does with the IMA, who offers advanced training for debt advisers in the form of the Level 4 certificate in Money Advice Practice (Cert MAP), it also sits on the Apprenticeship Trailblazers working group.
The apprentice project is to support debt advisers who are just starting out in the industry to ensure they learn skills such as empathy and active listening, as well as the assessed areas of debt advice.
Bailiff reform – Taking Control
PayPlan is one of eleven members making up the ‘Taking Control’ campaign on bailiff reform. We believe that government reforms in 2014 have not improved the sector and there is a need to establish independent regulation to clean up the industry.
Discussions about bailiff reform have been rumbling on for years but time and again the changes we know we need have been diluted or delayed. This time we need the Ministry of Justice and the government to act decisively.
Through the taking control campaign, the advice sector has come together and produced excellent evidence for the distress and damage that poor practice by bailiffs so often cases our clients. It is time that the rules for bailiffs caught up with the best in consumer protections we have in other sectors.
Breathing space and statutory debt repayment plans
Following the government’s 2017 manifesto commitment to implement a Breathing Space and a Statutory Debt Repayment Plan (SDRP), in March 2019, we submitted our response to the consultation on the policy proposal.
To iron out the details of the scheme, the government’s consultation covered three main areas:
- Eligibility criteria for entering Breathing Space and SDRPs
- Protections of Breathing Space and SDRPs
- Details of how the two policies would be administered, including funding of the scheme.
We believe that clearer and more certain protection for consumers at both the advice stage and beyond will encourage more consumers to seek advice and to do so earlier in the process. Because of this, we very much welcome the proposed changes and look forward to seeing this being implemented.
The Fairness Group
The Fairness Group was set up in 2016 to recommend improvements to the government’s debt-management practices. Alongside PayPlan, it includes representatives from central government, local government, the debt advice sector and industry experts.
In May, we issued a joint public statement that outlines how government and the debt advice sector will work together to support vulnerable people. The group’s aim is to continually improve how government interacts with people in debt, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances and/or experiencing financial hardship by:
- understanding the impact that debt collection practices can have and how to improve them
- implementing a joint programme of work to further examine practices in central and local government debt management which support vulnerable people, and make evidence-based recommendations for change
- applying Fairness Principles to government debt management, in line with sector best practice
- balancing the statutory and societal obligations of government to collect debts and ongoing liabilities, and prevent fraudulent activity, with the need to ensure fairness
GamCare’s Advisory Panel
GamCare, the leading national provider of gambling support, has launched a new initiative to tackle financial harms. This new collaboration includes organisations that address gambling related financial harm, such as representatives from banking, debt advice, gambling treatment and the gambling industry.
People who gamble too much can experience a range of financial impacts, including debt. These in turn can lead to adverse impacts on relationships and mental wellbeing. PayPlan is represented by Vulnerable Client Manager, Emma Gibbons. Together, the group will launch various initiatives and resources, including:
- undertake steps to address issues of financial capability among customers
- tools to identify and support individuals experiencing financial harm
- guidelines for how much is an ‘affordable’ amount to spend on gambling
The project will create a range of resources focused on the needs of individuals experiencing gambling related financial harm. This includes best practice guidance for organisations in these sectors, training packages and consistent and up to date messaging.