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					                                                                  A Citizens Advice Social Policy Publication




evidence                                                             There’s no limit
                   Tony Herbert highlights a worrying gap in consumer protection
                               for people whose mobile phones are lost or stolen
                 The mobile phone industry and the police              your card before you are able to inform
                 have recently launched an initiative to               your bank it has been lost or stolen, the
                 clamp down on mobile phone crime,                     most you will have to pay is £50. Why
                 promising that 80 percent of mobile                   can’t mobile phone companies do
                 phones will be blocked within 48 hours                something similar? Secondly, if your
                 of being reported stolen. Yet losing a                credit card is used to make unusually
                 mobile phone can still be a very costly               large purchases, the bank will often call
                 business since you’re responsible for all             to make sure that these are authorised.
                 calls made until the phone is reported as             What stops mobile companies from
                 lost or stolen to your phone service                  doing the same?
                 provider. Given this, any delay can prove
                 extremely costly, with many people                    Or how about enabling customers to set
                 having to pay for hundreds of pounds                  all-inclusive credit limits which would
                 worth of calls that they did not make.                restrict the level of bills? Since the
                                                                       average spend on mobile phones is
                 A CAB client had his mobile phone stolen              £30.45 per month it is ludicrous not to
                 on the day he was returning to the UK.                question someone suddenly incurring
                 Although he reported the theft to the                 hundreds of pounds of charges in a short
                 local police he did not inform his phone              space of time.
                 service provider until he had returned to
                 the UK. In the meantime, the thief had                We expect mobile service providers to do
                 made £800 worth of calls. Since the                   much better. In general, they have a
                 client had failed to report the loss to his           good reputation among consumers.
                 service provider immediately he was                   Failure to act on this issue could
                 liable for these calls.                               jeopardize this and lead cynics to suggest
                                                                       that since phone service providers benefit
                 But should this be the end of the matter?             from customers incurring hefty bills, they
                 While customers should look after their               are happy for this situation to persist.
                 mobile and report it missing as soon as               The phone companies should prove that
                 possible, it is clear that phone service              they are concerned about their industry’s
                 providers could do much more to protect               reputation and that they will do more to
                 consumers. In contrast, the banks are                 protect consumers.
                 required to provide better protection for
                 consumers who have lost their debit or
                                                                       Tony Herbert is a Social Policy Officer
                 credit card. Firstly, the Banking Code                working on essential services.
                 makes clear that if someone else uses                 Tony.Herbert@citizensadvice.org.uk.


                  INSIDE...
                  BENEFITS                             IMMIGRATION                          DEBT
                  Kim Maynard assesses whether the     Richard Dunstan asks whether the    Peter Tutton explains why a CAB-
                  Welfare Reform Bill will improve     proposed changes to IND will result service wide campaign to improve
                  support for the most vulnerable 2    in improvements to its service 6    bailiff practices is necessary 10

                  FINANCIAL INCLUSION                  LEGAL
                  Francesca Hopwood Road               James Sandbach comments on the
                  examines efforts to increase the     proposals for the Carter review of
September 2006    number of free cash machines in      legal aid procurement            8
                  deprived areas                   4
     BENEFITS




                           Welfare Reform – The devil’s in
                                               the detail
      Kim Maynard assesses whether the Welfare Reform Bill will improve support for
                                                                the most vulnerable
                                            action plans and work-related         and experienced staff and used
     T   he Welfare Reform Bill,
         which received its second
     reading in the House of
                                            activity, and the potential role
                                            for the voluntary and private
                                                                                  only in extreme cases.

                                            sectors.                              We also have concerns about the
     Commons in July, presents a                                                  housing benefit sanctions
     real opportunity to improve            Unless these regulations, or the      contained in the Bill which aim to
     the lives of millions of               principles behind them, are           deter anti-social behaviour.
     vulnerable people. Almost a            made available before the House       Whilst these proposals are more
     third of all enquiries to              of Commons Committee stage            measured than previous
                                            of the Bill, they will not be         suggestions, we still have
     Citizens Advice Bureaux are
                                            subject to either debate or           reservations. If the threat of
     about benefits and tax credits
                                            proper Parliamentary scrutiny.        eviction has not been effective,
     and we have a strong interest          Without these, it is difficult to     then it seems unlikely that the
     in seeing welfare reform               assess how helpful the reforms        threat of a withdrawal of
     deliver genuine improvements           might be.                             housing benefit will be.
     to our clients. The Bill, which
     includes reform of housing             Sanctions                             Moving back into work
     benefit and replaces                   The Bill extends the use of           CAB clients often find that
                                            sanctions (i.e. a reduction of        moving back into work and off
     incapacity benefit with the
                                            benefits where a claimant fails to    benefits is a complicated,
     employment and support
                                            attend a work-focussed                confusing and scary time. They
     allowance, is a fantastic              interview) to include all work        have to meet the extra job-
     opportunity for effective and          related activity. It is unclear how   related costs, such as travelling to
     comprehensive reform, but              this might work in practice and       work, whilst having to shut
     we are concerned that this             the amount of detail left to          down existing benefit claims and
     chance could be missed, for a          regulation causes us concern.         wait for new work-related
                                                                                  benefit claims to be assessed.
     number of reasons.
                                            We believe that the government        Significant improvements need to
                                            has yet to make the case for          be made to the delivery of
     Wait for regulations
                                            sanctions, especially as their own    benefits as a central aim of the
     Much of the detail about some          research demonstrated that            Bill to ensure a smooth transition
     of the most critical aspects of the    sanctions for not complying with      on and off benefits.
     reforms is missing from the face       work-focussed interviews were
     of the Bill - it will instead be set   only used in less than one            One of the key missing strands in
     out later in regulations. These        percent of cases. Citizens Advice     the reforms is a genuine
     will define how every part of the      feels that sanctions should not be    commitment to empower people
     reforms will work in practice–         used without evidence of their        to work by doing more to break
     from assessments relating to           effectiveness being made              down the artificial boundary
     entitlement, to conditionality,        available. If sanctions are to be     between work and benefits. The
     including the nature and scope         introduced, it is critically          government has already
     of work-focused health-related         important that decisions are          recognised that the boundary
     activity, work focused interviews,     taken only by suitably qualified      needs to be flexible, for example

2   evidence September 2006
by extending the range of benefit      simplification, given that our         achieved if sufficient resources
run-ons, but achieving sustainable     advisers spend a considerable          are used effectively to provide
jobs that genuinely lift people off    part of their day both trying to       people with accurate advice,
benefits and out of poverty            explain complex benefit rules and      information and support.
depends on more of this sort of        calculations to clients, and also to   Without these vital resources, it is
provision. Poverty is at its deepest   convince DWP staff to alter their      unlikely that these “lite” versions
amongst families that experience       incorrect decisions. Although          will be as successful: the
repeated transitions in and out of     some of this is just poor              resources and services provided
work, so measures must be              administration, quite a lot is to      may not be sufficient to sustain
devised with this in mind.             do with a system that has grown        even the current levels of quality,
                                       very complex because of a need         let alone offer the improvements
We are also concerned that             to cater for individual                the Government rightly expects.
providers of pathways to work          circumstances. A National Audit
programmes will be paid by             Office report concluded,               Delivering better services
results – i.e. by getting people       “dealing with the problems             Finally, Citizens Advice has long
into work. There appears to be         associated with complexity is a        had serious concerns about the
no scope for measuring and             long term project which will           ability of Jobcentre Plus to
rewarding efforts made by              require a systematic and strategic     administer a high quality service,
claimants on their way back into       approach focusing on system as         in particular to many of its most
work. There is little incentive for    a whole.” Simplification must not      vulnerable customers, as we
providers to do anything other         become a by-word for reducing          highlighted in the June 2006
than focus on helping those            the benefits payable to                issue of Evidence.
closest to the job markets, and        vulnerable members of society, or
those most in need will continue       just be about opportunistic            Unless delivery is upgraded from
to be left behind.                     measures that take no account of       its present inexcusable condition,
                                       the policy intentions behind the       reforms will flounder badly. It is
Unless the government engage                                                  vital that Jobcentre Plus
                                       benefit structure.
employers with these reforms,                                                 successfully transforms itself into
any newly created ready-pool of        Roll out of pilots                     an organisation that is able to
labour will have nowhere to go.                                               deliver accurate decisions and
                                       As successful pilot schemes are
A recent survey of employers                                                  offer tailored advice and support.
                                       scaled-up, it is important that the
found that more than 60%                                                      The reforms envisage quicker and
                                       resources and features that have
disregarded applications from                                                 more accurate decisions, for
                                       generated their success are not
people with drug or alcohol                                                   example, but there is insufficient
                                       scaled down. Pilots such as
problems, a criminal record, and                                              information to suggest how this
                                       Pathways to Work, which aims to
a history of mental health                                                    necessary step-change in quality
                                       assist and support incapacity
problems or incapacity. More                                                  will be achieved at all, let alone
                                       benefit claimants into work, and
than half of respondents said                                                 in time.
                                       the Local Housing Allowance
nothing would persuade them to
                                       pathfinders, where local
recruit from these “core jobless”
                                       authorities were given funding to
groups .
                                       help housing benefit claimants
                                                                              Kim Maynard is the Assistant Social
                                       open bank accounts and manage
Benefit simplification                                                        Policy Officer in the Welfare and
                                       direct payments of housing             Work Team
Citizens Advice supports the
                                       benefit, have shown what can be        Kim.Maynard@citizensadvice.org.uk
broad objectives for

                                                                                       September 2006 evidence       3
      FINANCIAL INCLUSION




                            It’s raining ATMs – hallelujah?
      Francesca Hopwood Road examines efforts to increase the number of free cash
                                                       machines in deprived areas


     I t is a rare but welcome event
       when Citizens Advice can
     congratulate members of the
                                         machine. It sounds like there is a
                                         lot of choice, but therein lies the
                                         rub: since 1990 approximately
                                                                               that £1.50 charge can mean
                                                                               extra heating, food or other
                                                                               necessity to all of us. All cash
     banking community but that is       4,000 bank branches have closed       machines should be free. To
     just the situation that we have     and only four per cent of villages    catch a bus from our village to a
     recently found ourselves in.        now have a bank. Furthermore, a       free cash machine costs us £3.50
     HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland        question mark hangs over the          return. It’s a rip off for the elderly
     and HBOS have all announced         future sustainability of the post     and people on benefit, as they
     that they will be deploying a       office network in its current         have no choice”.
     significant number of free cash     form. Couple this with the
     machines in light of Citizens       growth in the number of fee-          What’s more, fee-charging
     Advice’s campaign on free           charging cash machines and the        machines tend to dominate in
     access to cash. Whilst the          options for access to free cash       rural and urban deprived areas.
     moves of the banks are              start to rapidly diminish.            So, what are these people to do?
     welcome, our concern is that
                                                                               Should they get on a bus or train
     access to cash needs to be          The estate of free and fee-
                                                                               to their nearest free cash
     sustainable in the long-term. In    charging cash machines has
                                                                               machine? Or should they incur a
     order for this to happen, it is     changed significantly over the
                                                                               parking cost? What happens if
     not just the banks that need to     past 6 years. In 1999 virtually all
                                                                               they are elderly, disabled or
     step up to the mark.                cash machines were free
                                                                               mothers with small children?
                                         however today over 40 per cent
                                                                               Should they have to incur the
     Citizens Advice’s concerns about    of the 58,000 cash machines in
                                                                               cost of getting their money out
     lack of access to free cash         the UK charge a fee. And the fee
                                                                               simply because they have no
     developed in light of the           is not inconsiderable, fee-
                                                                               other choice?
     government’s policy of direct       charging machines can charge
     payment of benefits into bank       anything up to £3 for a cash
     accounts. Direct payment means      withdrawal. This is money that        A lone parent client in receipt of
     that those in receipt of benefits   people can ill-afford to waste        benefits withdraws £10 to £20
     now need a bank account or a        especially if they are managing       every few weeks from her local
     Post Office card account in order   on a low-income or benefits.          supermarket in South Tonbridge.
     to receive their benefits. Whilst                                         She is unable to travel into the
     this has enabled the government     “I live in a small village in the     centre of town to a free machine
     to go some way towards tackling     Cynon Valley. The nearest free        because of lack of public
     financial exclusion, it has had     cash machines to us are over 12-      transport and the distance she
     some unforeseen repercussions.      14 miles away. The old and            would need to cover on foot
     In order for people to get their    people on benefit are forced to       whilst pushing her two children
     money out, they have several        withdraw their money out from         in their buggy. If the free LINK
     choices; they can either go to      the only cash machine in our          network was available at the sub-
     their local bank branch or post     Post Office, which is a charging      Post Office in the same road, she
     office or they can use a cash       one. I think it’s disgraceful, as     would avoid this charge.

4   evidence September 2006
This problem is not a small one       coming years? What happens             Welsh Assembly Government
either. The survey undertaken by      when areas, as they will, move         should work with local
Citizens Advice Bureaux in the        up and down the ladder of              authorities to encourage them to
spring of 2006, identified more       deprivation?                           secure the siting of free machines
than 80 areas in the UK which                                                on council property. This is critical
were considered to be free cash       A cash machine taskforce has           to the success of deploying free
machine deserts. This is simply       been set-up, chaired by the chair      cash machines in deprived areas,
the tip of the iceberg as has been    of the Treasury Select                 as banks often report that
illustrated by the work of LINK,      Committee, John McFall MP, to          finding a site in the first place
who suggest that of the 10,000        look at ways in which access to        can be the most difficult part of
most deprived Super Output            free cash machines and the             the process. Combine this with
Areas (SOAs) in the country,          signage on fee-charging cash           reluctance or unwillingness on
1,618 have no free cash               machines could be improved. On         the part of local authorities to
machine. The areas identified         the problem of free access to          grant planning permission,
are home to four per cent of the      cash, so far the onus seems to be      especially if there is already a fee-
total UK population.                  falling on the banks. For              charging machine, and the good
                                      example, the banks and LINK are        intentions of the banking
So, the announcement of three         looking ways to provide free           community are stymied from the
of the five major banks to start      ATMs in those 1,618 Super              start.
to plug the gaps in free cash         Output Areas without a free cash
machine provision is a very           machine. Furthermore, there is a       The government and local
welcome and important step            suggestion to make changes to          authorities need to play their role
forward. But important issues still   protect “the last ATM in town”.        in facilitating the work of the
remain, not withstanding how to       This is needed to allay fears          banking community. Furthermore
tackle access to free cash in the     about the long-term sustainability     they need to recognise that they
long-term. The government is          of not only protecting free access     have an obligation to make sure
going to continue paying              to cash but also of giving it to       that benefit recipients are able to
benefits directly into bank           those communities who cannot           access their benefit without
accounts, and with the end of         yet take advantage of it.              incurring a charge, now and in
the Post Office card account                                                 the future.
contract in 2010, more people         But perhaps, given the
will have their benefits paid into    government’s role in indirectly
bank accounts. However, the           shifting some of the cost of
banks have only committed to          accessing cash on to individuals,
deploying their new machines for      they should play a greater role in
between two and five years. So,       facilitating free access to cash. In
what happens after that?              our report, Out of Pocket, we          Francesca Hopwood Road is the
Likewise, what happens if free        recommended that the                   Assistant Social Policy Officer for the
                                                                             Consumer, Money and Justice Team.
cash machines are removed from        Department for Communities             Francesca.hopwood-
other deprived areas over the         and Local Government and the           road@citizensadvice.org.uk


                                                                                       September 2006 evidence         5
      IMMIGRATION




                                               A plan fit for purpose?
               Richard Dunstan asks whether the proposed changes to IND will result in
                                                          improvements to its service

                                                                               can be seen to have simply been
     A     t the end of July, as MPs     performance management
           were busy packing their       framework to enable a high-           recycled from the ambitious and
      holiday suitcases and ordering     performance business”, to “put        supposedly comprehensive “five
      their taxis to the airport, the    in place clear lines of               year strategy for asylum and
      Home Secretary, John Reid,         accountability and responsibility”,   immigration” set out by the
      finally let them in on how he is   and to “learn from and draw on        Prime Minister and then Home
      going to reform the Home           world-class expertise within the      Secretary, Charles Clarke, as long
      Office’s Immigration &             public and private sectors to         ago as February 2005. For
      Nationality Directorate (IND) –    improve our operations”. All          example:
      a directorate that, a few weeks    well and good, if a little
      previously, to the delight of      nebulous.                             “We will introduce a New
      tabloid editors, he had                                                  Asylum Model with faster, tightly
                                         But the central thrust of the         managed processes … so that
      dramatically condemned as
                                         action plan is far from prosaic.      we are better able to remove
      “not fit for purpose”. A
                                         On the contrary, it proclaims a       those whose claims are rejected”
      thousand or so foreign
                                         range of initiatives that will        (Home Office, February 2005)
      national prisoners had not
                                         “accelerate [sic] the pace of
      been considered for
                                         change to achieve a radical           “We will apply the New Asylum
      deportation by IND and, with
                                         transformation of our                 Model to ensure that asylum
      the tabloid press on his back,     immigration system”. Over the         cases are resolved quickly, with
      Mr Reid had decided not just       coming months, IND will “export       those who do not qualify
      to pass the buck to IND            our borders”, will fast-track         removed promptly” (Home Office
      officials, but to pull the roof    asylum decisions, will “deal          July 2006)
      down on their heads.               with” – whatever that means –
                                         the “legacy” of some 450,000          “We will introduce fixed penalty
      Given the Home Secretary’s
                                         failed but never removed asylum       fines on employers for each
      damning assessment of IND’s
                                         seekers, will “substantially          illegal worker they employ”
      past performance and capability
                                         expand [its] work to enforce our      (Home Office, February 2005)
      – it is, Mr Reid told the Home
                                         immigration laws”, and will
      Affairs Committee of MPs in                                              “We will penalise rogue
                                         “boost Britain’s economy by
      May, “inadequate in terms of its                                         employers who employ illegal
                                         bringing the right skills here from
      information technology,                                                  workers by implementing fines
                                         around the world”. Quite an
      leadership, management, systems                                          for employers” (Home Office July
                                         impressive work programme for
      and processes” – one might have                                          2006)
                                         a directorate that, just a few
      expected a rather mundane
                                         weeks ago, was supposedly a
      concentration on how these key                                           Strip out these re-
                                         basket case.
      aspects are to be improved.                                              announcements, and one is left
      And, to be fair, Mr Reid’s 24-     Or is it? For, upon closer            with not much more than the
      page action plan does include      reading, most of the action plan’s    political window-dressing of
      promises to “create a new          ‘new’ initiatives and objectives      uniforms for immigration

6   evidence September 2006
officials, the transition of IND to    the face of a constant stream of       is another piece of legislation
agency status, and a lot of hot        high-profile targets on asylum –       on the way. Recently the
air. And, for every example of         usually imposed, out of the blue,      Home Secretary has
how transition to agency status        by 10 Downing Street. And with         announced that he plans to
has brought success – the              the asylum caseload now                bring forward a new
Passport Agency stands out –           (almost) under control, focus          immigration bill – the
there is at least one example of       would no doubt have shifted            Government’s sixth since 1997
failure: the woeful Child Support      back to these areas in due             – early in the next
Agency, or the struggling              course.                                Parliamentary session, and
Jobcentre Plus.
                                       Indeed, IND would almost             • The unnecessary distraction of
So, what is going on? Well, for        certainly be performing better all     unworkable or otherwise
all the Home Secretary’s bluster       round were it not for three            barmy policy ideas from Home
in the wake of the foreign             factors:                               Office Ministers – section 55
national prisoners ‘crisis’, the                                              of the 2002 Act, sections 9
truth is that, overall, IND has        • The dislocation effect of Tony       and 10 of the 2004 Act, and
been performing relatively well in       Blair’s asylum targets.              the cash-less nature of section
recent years. A backlog of               Following the foreign national       4 support for failed asylum
100,000 undecided asylum                 prisoners ‘crisis’, the number       seekers, to give just a few
claims in 2000 has been almost           of officials working on              examples.
entirely cleared, most initial           deportation cases increased
asylum decisions are now made            from just 32 to over 500, with     In short, what IND needs most of
within weeks, removals (and              some 200 being transferred         all is to be left alone by Ministers
voluntary departures) of failed          from asylum casework alone.        and their unelected policy
asylum seekers are at record             Were it not for the Prime          advisers. No more ‘action plans’,
levels, and the utter shambles           Minister’s asylum targets –        no more ‘five year strategies’, no
that was the National Asylum             which senior IND officials had     more targets from on high, and
Support Service (NASS) has been          no option but to prioritise –      no more legislation. But ‘quietly
transformed since 2004. Not              there might well have been         getting on with the job’ isn’t
bad for a basket case.                   more deportation caseworkers       really the kind of tabloid headline
                                         before now and the issue           that Home Office Ministers are
This is not to say that all is as it     might never have exploded as       looking for right now. So expect
should be – service delivery in          it did.                            yet more bluster – and yet more
some areas of IND’s remit, such                                             legislation – from Mr Reid & Co.
as citizenship applications,           • The need for senior officials to
remains shockingly poor, despite         devote time and energy to a
the introduction of hefty                constant stream of new
application fees. But senior IND         asylum- and immigration-           Richard Dunstan is a social policy
                                                                            officer working on immigration and
officials have had little choice but     related legislation (five major    employment issues.
to neglect these work areas in           Acts in eight years). And there    Richard.dunstan@citizensadvice.org.uk


                                                                                      September 2006 evidence       7
      LEGAL




                          Carter the unstoppable market
                                               machine
                   James Sandbach comments on the proposals for the Carter review of
                                                              legal aid procurement

     I  n time honoured tradition the
        Government’s response to
      what to do about the ongoing
                                            Community Legal Advice
                                            Networks (CLANs) service
                                            model (these are legal advice
                                                                               providers where the clients’
                                                                               protagonists - be they creditors,
                                                                               debt collectors, local authority
      demands and cost pressures            centres and networks covering      legal departments, private
      made on our over-stretched            a number of geographical           companies or government
      legal aid system has been to          areas, incorporating different     agencies of one sort or another -
      conduct another ‘review to            suppliers and/or different areas   will not be hampered by the
      end all reviews’. However, the        of social welfare law)             same fixed fee constraints in
      long awaited Carter Review on                                            their pursuit of legal action. As
                                          • Radical restructuring and cost
      legal aid procurement is                                                 the Carter report concedes, legal
                                            capping of criminal defence
      unlikely to gather dust; on the                                          complexity, the adversarial justice
                                            services
      day of its publication the                                               system and highly structured
      Department for Constitutional       The emerging ‘market’ agenda         legal processes are themselves
      Affairs and Legal Services          for fixed fees, competition, a       cost drivers, as is government
      Commission produced a joint         unified model contract for all       policy and legislation. The stated
      package of consultative             practitioners, preferred suppliers   aim of Carter to move towards
      proposals to implement Carter       and CLACs and CLANs appear to        ‘fewer, larger suppliers’ also risks
      in full. The main proposals for     have finally coalesced into a        raising real access challenges for
      change are:                         package that could radically         clients who do not live near to
                                          restructure the landscape of         any of the large providers.
      • Identical civil contracts from    publicly funded legal services. At
                                                                               Equally, public value does have to
        2007 for solicitors and not for   the heart of these proposals are
                                                                               mean value for money. Longer
        profit agencies                   a drive for efficiency and value
                                                                               contracts covering wider areas of
                                          for money. It is pointed out that
                                                                               law may well be helpful to
                                          we spend more on legal aid per
      • Level 1 work to be removed                                             overcoming some of the
                                          capita in England and Wales than
        from Not for Profit agencies                                           fragmentation in service delivery.
                                          anywhere else in the world (over
                                                                               Fixed pricing is also good for
                                          £2 million), so the Treasury
      • Only suppliers with existing                                           business certainty and planning.
                                          requires more bang for its bucks.
        LSC income of £25,000 or                                               If efficiency savings of 20
        more can contract                 Market driven reform raises both     percent, particularly in higher
                                          public value issues as well as       cost criminal defence work, can
      • Fixed price contracts, fixed      practical challenges - the           be delivered – this could be
        fees for categories of work       purchasers (LSC) and consumers       targeted to the benefit of
        and move towards best vale        (clients) of public legal services   vulnerable, excluded groups.
        tendering                         are not the same parties. The        However, lacking in Carter’s
                                          move to fixed prices and fees for    strategic vision is any practical
      • Endorses the Community Legal      all publicly funded work will        proposal about how these
        Advice Centres (CLACs) and        inevitably raise challenges for      savings could be focussed, or


8   evidence September 2006
how efficiencies could be              £332 compared to £199 for             ‘Green Form’ scheme. Advisers in
achieved through joined up             solicitors, whilst the LSC’s          the NfP sector have never
funding mechanisms between             proposed national fixed fee is        worked in this way, and prefer to
legal aid and other public             £127. Bureaux may therefore           deal with deal holistically with
resources in the advice market,        have to cut casework costs            people and problems rather than
from financial inclusion initiatives   significantly to meet these           narrowly defined pieces of legal
and social exclusion projects, to      targets, and will have to change      work, so accordingly now find
publicly (local authority and          their approach to LSC funded          themselves at a disadvantage. In
government agency) funded              money advice if fixed fee             order to retain their LSC funding,
housing, employment,                   contracts are subject to              NfP organisations will have pick
immigration, benefits and social       competitive tendering. As the         up the ‘skill’ of identifying
welfare advice. Civil and criminal     regulatory impact assessment          separate matters and fast.
work will still be competing in a      concedes, ‘’We have modelled
                                                                             So what of Citizens Advice’s
capped budget, with the only           the impact of NfP organisations
                                                                             response? Perhaps a good
area of proposed pump priming          moving to the TFF Replacement
                                                                             starting point is to use the
being the LSC management               Scheme if fees are set on a
                                                                             proposed fixed fees as a starting
information systems and new            national basis and our
                                                                             point for contract negotiations to
systems for quality assurance.         preliminary analysis suggests that
                                                                             getter a better deal for legal help
                                       if NfPs do not increase the
On balance, Carter’s proposals                                               casework, with more flexibility in
                                       numbers of matters undertaken,
should be treated with concern –                                             the fixed fee structure to allow
                                       92% will experience significant
particularly concerning the LSC’s                                            for different types of cases, level
                                       decreases in their publicly funded
recommended fixed fees. Fixing                                               of work and geographical
                                       income, and the total spend with
prices at the lowest end of the                                              variations. De-railing the whole
                                       the sector in the categories of
market may mean fixing quality                                               agenda is unlikely to succeed,
                                       work covered will reduce by 50%
at the lowest level for civil legal                                          but lobbying on the basis of the
                                       (£21 million).’’
help practitioners. As Richard                                               quality of existing CAB advice
Morehead’s research on legal aid       The ‘steady state’ envisaged by       service and case outcomes may
franchising has shown, there is        Carter is one is of efficient legal   well make some at the LSC think
an inevitable trade off between        service factories – be they private   again, especially over their
cost and quality – generally           or voluntary sector. However,         pricing structure. Some bureaux
speaking longer time spent on          rolling out fixed fees in the         may wish to show that they can
cases means better quality work;       voluntary sector does not take        offer CLAC and CLAN style
however this will prove to be          account of the interaction at a       services better than any artificial
challenging for suppliers              cost level between 'core' and         creation of the LSC. Both the
necessarily seeking to maximise        specialist services. Simplifying      Commission and the DCA need
fixed fee income. Essentially,         payment systems for legal help        the goodwill of suppliers to make
those agencies able to take on         work in social welfare law is may     the legal aid system work – this is
more clients will be rewarded,         impact hugely on the current          a message that needs to be
regardless of outcomes.                variations in the type and extent     repeated again and again.
                                       of work done by providers.
The not for profit sector will face
                                       Having to identify distinct case
particular challenges in dealing
                                       units to obtain fixed fees will be
with fixed fees. For example the
                                       challenging; solicitors have long
current average case cost in NfP                                             James Sandbach is a Social Policy
                                       been used to creating ‘separate       Officer responsible for legal issues.
organisations for a debt case is
                                       matters’ dating back the old          James.sandbach@citizensadvice.org.uk


                                                                                      September 2006 evidence        9
     DEBT




                                    Putting bailiffs on the spot
             Peter Tutton explains why a CAB-service wide campaign to improve bailiff
                                                               practices is necessary
                                          loudly in government. The draft       Although DCA have said that
     T   hey’re at it again! The
         January 2006 edition of
     Evidence led with a case
                                          Tribunal, Courts and
                                          Enforcement Bill was finally
                                                                                they will return to the question of
                                                                                regulation at a future date,
     where bailiffs had threatened        published on 25 July and, as          parliamentary time for an issue
     to sell a kitten to pay a debt.      anticipated, it contains no           like bailiff regulation is likely to
     Now a CAB in London has              commitment to regulate bailiffs       appear with a frequency akin to
     reported a grim case of bailiff      enforcing civil debt and              Halley’s Comet. We are deeply
     puppy love.                          magistrates’ court fines.             concerned that the opportunity
                                                                                to address widespread problems
     A bailiff recovering a parking       Instead the draft Bill provides for   with bailiff practices will be lost.
     fine turned up at a woman’s          a reworking of the current            This is worrying, given that the
     home with a mate and tools           certification scheme. Although        draft Bill also proposes to extend
     while she was at work. The           the detail of conditions that         bailiffs’ power to forcibly enter
     bailiffs hammered on the front       might be attached to certificates     people’s homes to a wider range
     door and threatened to break it      is left to regulations, it takes      of debts. While our concerns
     down until the client’s ex           something of a leap of faith to       over this particular proposal are a
     husband (and 6 year old child)       imagine how this reform will          separate matter to bailiff
     was so terrified he let them in.     significantly improve the current     regulation (proper regulation of
     The bailiff then tried to call the   situation. CAB evidence shows         bailiffs is certainly not a
     client at work and when her          numerous examples of practices        counterweight to overturning
     employer replied that she was at     that breach the Department of         centuries-old protections), CAB
     lunch the bailiff called the         Constitutional Affairs (DCA) own      evidence regularly shows how the
     employer a liar and demanded to      National Standards for                threat of forcible entry is
     speak to her rudely until her        Enforcement Agents that are at        employed by bailiffs who do not
     employer put the phone down.         best sporadically addressed.          currently have that power as a
     On a second visit the bailiff                                              tool to harass debtors. One can
     intimidated the client including a   There is an element of irony here     easily imagine how these threats
     threat to take the family dog and    in that the decision to drop plans    will escalate in an unregulated
     its puppy along with other           for regulation is said to be based    environment of swingeing new
     possessions. The bailiff was         on concerns arising from the          powers. There is a real danger
     heard to say ‘nice pedigree dog -    Hampton Review of effective           that these reforms will not only
     I can get a lot of money for         inspection and enforcement by         fail to offer the protections
     that’.                               regulatory bodies. However it is      envisaged in the 2003
                                          hard to see how the existing          Enforcement White Paper but will
     The appalling practices described    system of court based complaint       offer support to unscrupulous
     here should alarm not just pet       adjudication meets either the         bailiffs who seem to understand
     lovers but anyone who is             general Hampton principles of         much better than the DCA the
     concerned that debt should be        effectiveness and efficiency of       great distance between the
     enforced fairly, justly and          regulatory systems or the more        protection of the law and the
     without causing additional           specific concern with deterring       doorsteps of vulnerable debtors.
     hardship to people in financial      rogue business practices and
     difficulties. Alas these alarm       taking action against persistent      These concerns have motivated
     bells are still not sounding very    offenders.                            us to organise a CAB local action


10 evidence September 2006
campaign, Putting bailiffs on the      out has two broad aims. Firstly,      a national lobby for independent
spot, to be launched at the            bureaux will in effect be stepping    regulation of bailiffs to be re-
Citizens Advice AGM at the end         into the gap where an                 introduced to the draft Bill.
of September. Bureaux will be          independent regulator should be       Those who followed the progress
asked to gather evidence of bad        by bringing evidence of               of the Consumer Credit Act
practices by bailiffs that they will   widespread problems to the            2006 through parliament would
score against standards of             attention of firms and, in this       have noted the broad all party
conduct drawn from the DCA’s           case, the local authorities that      support for measures to clamp
National Standards, legal              are employing them. Bureaux           down on rogue lenders and debt
requirements and industry codes.       will be asking local authorities to   collectors. Citizens Advice
We hope to build a national            review procedures for monitoring      believes that the issues relating
picture of which bailiff firms are     bailiff conduct and to deal           to debt enforcement by bailiffs
causing problems for CAB clients.      appropriately with those firms        are very similar in this respect.
                                       who persistently breach good
Because of the variety of rules        practice standards. At the same       Let’s not be diverted by
currently applying to different        time local authorities will be        arguments that bailiffs are a
types of bailiffs, we are asking       asked to ensure that                  separate case as they are officers
bureaux to concentrate on bailiff      enforcement by bailiffs is only       of the court. The fact is that
action to recover council tax          used appropriately and not in         most of the bailiffs causing the
debts. The CAB service dealt           cases where the debtor is in a        problems seen by bureaux are
with just under 90,000 enquiries       vulnerable situation or where the     not. They are private companies
about council tax debt in              debt can be recovered through         seeking to make a profit by
2005/06 and a large proportion         alternative means. Although the       collecting debts. Government
of CAB evidence on problems            local nature of this campaign         must ensure that this profit does
with bailiff conduct relates to        cannot address the behaviour of       not come at the expense of
certificated bailiffs enforcing        bailiff firms enforcing council tax   vulnerable people in financial
council tax arrears. Indeed some       arrears nationally; we are hopeful    difficulties. We urge everyone
bureaux reported almost one in         that this approach will               concerned about debt to support
ten of the enquiries they received     significantly challenge the           our campaign and help us to put
on council tax bailiffs involved a     persistent problems with bailiff      bad bailiff practices on the spot.
complaint of harassment. Local         conduct that bureaux are
authorities are of course part of      reporting.
government and as such should
be intently concerned with the         While this local social policy
conduct of enforcement agents          action has been made necessary
employed to act in their name.         by the lack of an effective
For these reasons council tax          regulator, it certainly is no
seemed a good starting point to        substitute for independent
put bailiff practices in the           regulation of the whole bailiff
spotlight.                             sector. Therefore in the second
                                       strand of the campaign bureaux
                                                                             Peter Tutton is a social policy officer
The campaigning work that              will be asked to contribute their     working on credit and debt issues.
bureaux are being asked to carry       experience of bailiff problems to     Peter.tutton@citizensadvice.org.uk


                                                                                       September 2006 evidence         11
     CITIZENS ADVICE SOCIAL POLICY PUBLICATIONS


     Evidence reports
     published in the six months
     > What the doctor ordered? (Free, March 2006)
     CAB evidence on medical assessments for incapacity and disability
     benefits
                                                                                   Join our mailing lists
     > From complaints to commitments (Free, March 2006)
                                                                                   If you would like your name added to
     CAB ICAS evidence on service improvement commitments in the
     NHS                                                                           our mailing lists to receive evidence
                                                                                   and/or information about our publications
     > Deeper in debt (Free, May 2006)
                                                                                   on any or all of the following topics
     A profile of CAB debt clients
                                                                                   please contact the Social Policy
      > Shaming destitution (Free, June 2006)
                                                                                   Department on 020 7833 7191 or email
     NASS section 4 support for failed asylum seekers who are
                                                                                   social.policy@citizensadvice.org.uk
     temporarily unable to leave the UK
     > Out of pocket (Free, July 2006)                                             evidence journal
     CAB evidence on the impact of fee-charging cash machines                      Debt and consumer affairs
                                                                                   Employment
     Recent briefings and responses to                                             Health
                                                                                   Housing
     consultation papers;                                                          Immigration
     June – August 2006                                                            Legal affairs
                                                                                   Social security/tax credits
     • Briefing for second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill in the
                                                                                   Rural issues
       House of Commons (July)                                                     Tax
     • Response to Cabinet Office on regulatory sanctioning post
       Hampton (August)
                                                                                   To order publications
                                                                                   You can order all of these publications
     • Response to EU consultation on proposed new legislation for                 through our website at
       timeshare, timeshare-like and travel discount club products                 www.citizensadvice.org.uk or by
       (August)                                                                    emailing Carolyn Sandler
                                                                                   carolyn.sandler@citizensadvice.org.uk
     • Response to DTI consultation on on-site inspection powers
       under EU Regulation on consumer protection cooperation
                                                                                   When ordering evidence reports for
       (July)
                                                                                   which there is a charge, please send us a
     • Response to Law Commission on proportionate dispute                         cheque made payable to ‘Citizens
       resolution in housing (July)                                                Advice’ and send order with payment to
                                                                                   Social Policy, Citizens Advice,
     • Briefing for the Compensation Bill – 2nd Reading in the                     115 Pentonville Road, London N1 9LZ.
       Commons (June)
     • Response to DTI on a new regulation under the Equalities Act,               www.citizensadvice.org.uk
       to outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of             Visit our website for instant access
       goods and services (June)                                                   to reports and briefings on the
                                                                                   5.2 million problems dealt with
     • Consultation via OFT on local trader schemes run by trading                 every year by the network of
       standards services (June)                                                   Citizens Advice Bureaux.
     • Response to Ofcom’s proposals to remove retail price controls
       (May)
                                                                                   Published by Citizens Advice Social Policy
                                                                                   Department
                                                                                   115-123 Pentonville Road, London N1 9LZ
     Copies of all these briefings and responses to consultation papers are
                                                                                   T: 020 7833 2181
     available free of charge from the Citizens Advice Social Policy Department.
                                                                                   F: 020 7278 7142
                                                                                   www.citizensadvice.org.uk
                                                                                   www.adviceguide.org.uk
12 evidence September 2006                                                         Registered Charity No. 279057

				
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