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What are vulnerable persons/groups? This is indeed a very good question. By the way even the DWP has its own contradictions' on this subject as you will see later on... So sorry for the long read but you can cut it short by reading the section in DMG 35060 -35135.

 

 

This has been the topic of several heated debates recently, with this in mind a regular poster was going to start a thread about this but yet I have not yet seen this. So with this in mind I will start one to get the ball rolling.

 

 

As we all are very much aware there are many types of what is classed as a vulnerable person/group, whether or not you can claim this if the EA is enforcing against you. Well an answer to this has been provided by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) this October. The link to it is below.

 

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/470852/dmgch35.pdf

 

 

This is correct as of this October 2015. Although this is in fact nothing to do with enforcement it does go a very long way in explaining the many types of what we call "a vulnerable person" if the DWP has made this as part of their decision making then perhaps the MoJ could do the same or similar?

 

 

What is a vulnerable group for hardship purposes

35055 Vulnerable group is the term used in this guidance to describe people who are more likely to suffer hardship if JSA is not paid without a waiting period, i.e. those people who are defined as "persons in hardship" in JSA legislation1. Claimants in a defined vulnerable group are entitled to hardship payments in circumstances where other claimants are not2.

Note 1: The test of hardship is not a test of ‘vulnerability’ but a test of the lack of the basic essential necessities of life, e.g. accommodation, food, water, heating and hygiene (see DMG 35155).

 

Note 2: The term vulnerable group for hardship purposes is not the same as the DWP wider definition of ‘vulnerability’, or ‘vulnerable groups’ for any other purposes and applies exclusively to those defined in JSA regulations as "persons in hardship"1.

1 JSA Regs, regs 140(1) & 146A(1); 2 regs 141 & 146C(1)

 

35056 The date from which entitlement to hardship payments starts also depends on whether the claimant is in a defined vulnerable group for hardship purposes1. 1 JSA Regs, regs 141, 142, 146C & 146D

 

People who are members of a vulnerable group

 

35057 The DM must treat claimants or partners who are

 

 

  1. pregnant women or
  2. lone parents responsible for a young person or
  3. members of couples or polygamous marriages responsible for children or young people or
  4. people who qualify for DP or
  5. certain people with long-term medical conditions or
  6. certain people who provide care for disabled people or
  7. certain people aged 16 or 17 or
  8. certain people under the age of 21

as "persons in hardship", (members of a vulnerable group for hardship purposes1

i.e. those who can have access to hardship without a waiting period).

 

Vol 6 Amendment 44 October 2015

 

Note 1: Further guidance on these categories is given in DMG 35060 -35135. Some of these people may satisfy the conditions of entitlement for IS or ESA(IR). If a claimant or partner satisfies an IS or ESA(IR) condition of entitlement the claimant cannot be a person in hardship (see DMG 35013).

 

Note 2: DMs should not interpret those with language difficulties, long term mental health conditions, or drug/alcohol dependencies as being in a vulnerable group for the purposes of JSA hardship unless the condition causes limitations in functional capacity because of a physical impairment2 (see further guidance on physical and mental health conditions at DMG 35070 et seq and 35095).

1 JSA Regs, reg 140(1); 2 reg 140(1)(g)

 

As you can see clearly this could be the start of being able to define this group of people. Now what could be very interesting is if the MoJ could produce a document similar to this when dealing with the EA may assist many people in the long run....

 

 

Sorry for using Google to acquire this information but it may help when discussing this type of group...

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To assist regular readers the relevant section to read is between

What is a vulnerable group for hardship purposes ..............................35055

And

People who are members of a vulnerable group..........................................35057

 

 

See these two sections of the above link in post #1

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There's a pretty good starting point already in s77 of the National Standards.

 

What people need to understand though is that vulnerability does not mean they don't have a debt to pay; it does not mean they don't have to deal with bailiffs; it most certainly does not mean the debt should be passed automatically back to the council.

 

It does mean they may need to be treated differently, and in very rare cases the debt may be passed back or even written off. This is, from what I have seen, very rare indeed, but does happen.

 

If someone is recently bereaved, it is perfectly reasonable for the bailiff to suspend enforcement action for, say, eight weeks, then return to enforce as before. I have known this happen.

 

Why should pregnancy make someone automatically vulnerable? It shouldn't and doesn't. It could, potentially in a few cases, but pregnancy is not an illness. A first or second stage trimester of pregnancy is highly unlikely to make someone vulnerable.

 

Each case must be judged on its own merits, hence there being no definitive list. Someone, for example, nearing the final stages of cancer may well be vulnerable, and it may well be appropriate to look at passing the debt back with a view to considering writing it off.

 

Some vulnerabilities are only temporary, some are lifelong. Any list will only be guidance - we already have that. It is an issue EA's meet a lot in the course of their work. Most are not genuine, as per what the MOJ (and I suspect the LGO) would consider genuine. Bailiff companies have welfare departments - this is why they exist.

 

Any bailiff who is in doubt should err on the side of caution, but they do not have crystal balls and cannot see 'invisible vulnerabilities'. It is then for the debtor to provide evidence of the vulnerability, something most will be able to do easily, and will do willingly.

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All very true CD also, what may be classed as vulnerable for the purposes of benefits for instance, may not be applicable in regards to enforcement, so although interesting, using any authority from unrelated sources must be viewed with caution.

Notably when looking at a response from a bailiff firm this weekend I noticed it included the following questions. Please identify the nature of your vulnerability and provide proof. Please explain why the vulnerability prevents you paying the bill.

The second question is descriptive of the meaning of the vulnerability question in regards to enforcement, this is unique and of course will not apply to other definitions which will have their own individual criteria.

 

must also be remembered that the guidelines prescribe groups where vulnerability may be present, it does not say that everyone who falls into one of these groups is vulnerable.

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Notably when looking at a response from a bailiff firm this weekend I noticed it included the following questions. Please identify the nature of your vulnerability and provide proof. Please explain why the vulnerability prevents you paying the bill.

 

 

Absolutely, any claim to vulnerability must answer this question, be it a mental health issue documented that prevents debtor from grasping with the concept, of debt, or an educational deficit; or even a Benefit Sanction that either has a Hardship Payment that doesn't fully cover food and utilities, or a complete cessation of benefit for a period under the Sanction.

 

Mind you for the latter the EA would possibly say to the debtor try to borrow the money to pay us, or rather will want to take control of any chattels in the house not exempt even if they are only worth a quid or so to ground the Sales Fee later on. Or would they return the debt to the creditor as nulla bona?

 

Either way as you point out DB the vulnerability must impact on a debtors ability to repay the debt.

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What are vulnerable persons/groups?

 

This has been the topic of several heated debates recently, with this in mind a regular poster was going to start a thread about this but yet I have not yet seen this. So with this in mind I will start one to get the ball rolling. .

 

On Saturday evening I did indeed make a post to advise that I was looking to start a new thread on the subject of bailiff enforcement and vulnerability and in particular so, given that I had only just completed an analysis of a very lengthly report form the Local Government Ombudsman on precisely this very subject. Obviously with busy work commitments I had only finished the draft for the thread last night and had only noticed this morning that you had already started such a thread. I am perfectly happy for this thread to be used instead. No problem at all. I will use the draft thread that I had completed as a news page on my website instead.

 

You have mentioned yourself that this subject has been the topic of 'several heated debates' recently. Indeed it has and and if this thread goes the same way as many others with silly arguments then I will not be motivated to contribute to the thread. After all, this is an important subject.

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Mind you for thein post one, to estab latter the EA would say to the debtor try to borrow the money to pay us, or rather will want to take control of any chattels in the house even if they are worth a quid or so. Or would they return the debt to the creditor as nulla bono?

 

Yes and as regards to enforcement the EA will not regard poverty as vulnerability. They will presume rightly or wrongly that such issues would have been resolved earlier in the process, using the methods and criteria appropriate.

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Yes and as regards to enforcement the EA will not regard poverty as vulnerability. They will presume rightly or wrongly that such issues would have been resolved earlier in the process, using the methods and criteria appropriate.

 

The Council might if addressed before being sent to bailiffs, however that would be unlikely in a Capita infested council,

 

The EA would probably pursue the now homeless debtor pursue to a B & B if the debtor was evicted for arrears of rent due to Sanction. However in an extreme situation where no goods worth taking control of nulla bona could apply, unless it has been nullified under the April 2014 Regulations meaning the EA carries on regardless.

 

However there is nothing to prevent a vulnerability being submitted with evidence as to effect on paying at any stage.

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I was referlng to the general provisions provided by social services and the benefits system which are "supposed" to provide that the person has enough income to live. I do not think that the bailiff will consider that this is something they will be responsible for.

 

This why the guidence provided earlier is inappropriate , because it is applicable earlier in the collection(eligibility for payment) stage.

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I was referlng to the general provisions provided by social services and the benefits system which are "supposed" to provide that the person has enough income to live. I do not think that the bailiff will consider that this is something they will be responsible for.

 

This why the guidence provided earlier is inappropriate , because it is applicable earlier in the collection(eligible for payment) stage.

 

You are correct insofar as the system is supposed to provide the support required, and it should be addressed earlier and common sense applied.

 

The reality is where a Benefit Sanction is applied the money from a Hardship award is a fraction of the Applicable Amount, or even a complete removal of benefit for up to months or even 3 years.

 

"Your benefit payment could be stopped for between 4 weeks and 156 weeks (3 years). This is called a sanction. There are 3 sanction levels; lower, intermediate or higher level. The level and length of your sanction depends on:" from:

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/jobseekers-allowance-sanctions-leaflet/jobseekers-allowance-sanctions-how-to-keep-your-benefit-payment

 

Liverpool Council on their website give good guidance to people affected by a sanction, as they rightly point out that having no money coming in because benefits have been stopped doesn't affect the underlying entitlement to

HB and CTax Relief, just that the person must inform the council so the claim can be updated and kept live. This is a reason for quite a few cases of arrears leading to a LO and EA action:

 

http://liverpool.gov.uk/benefits-and-grants/advice-if-your-benefit-is-sanctioned/

 

 

However if a vulnerability that directly affects ability to pay is evidenced then the creditor and EA should take account of it and respond appropriately.

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Yes indeed but none of this is relavant to enforcment by bailiffs or the vulnerably provisions of the TCE. A bailiff will not be concerned with whether the provision of the authority to spot people who have fallen foul of their shortcoming, they will just be interested in enforcing the warrant.

As far as they are concerned the setting of the charge will be down to the authority. As far as vulnerability regarding enforcment, inability to pay due to lack of funds is not vulnerability, nor is a reason to cease enforcment for obvious reasons.

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Nope! This is one critical reason why vulnerability for enforcement purposes and vulnerability for benefit purposes must remain different (and in reality are often very different anyway, with some overlap). That is why, in my response early this morning, I referred to the National Standards s.77 guideline definitions and deliberately ignored Mikeymack's benefit related ones. (Sorry MM lol!)

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DB the vulnerability I would have to be related to something about the person themselves as in health such as a bailiff harassing a person with a diagnosed condition known to the creditor say for an an Alzheimers sufferer, not a lack of financial ability to pay.

 

I think there was a case where a bailiff went to a care home to enforce against a dementia sufferer for council tax from their former home.

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Perhaps if rather than defining vulnerability in general we try and define the term in relation to enforcement.

 

The issue of vulnerability is appropriate when the debtors disability may be worsened by the action of the bailiff or they are unable to deal with the debt through poor communication or inability to understand the process.

 

So in fact an example not in this context would be a debt in a care home for instance which would possibly not be vulnerable, given the support which is available to them. The vulnerability would have to be in relation to the individual enforcment action itself.

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Perhaps if rather than defining vulnerability in general we try and define the term in relation to enforcement.

 

The issue of vulnerability is appropriate when the debtors disability may be worsened by the action of the bailiff or they are unable to deal with the debt through poor communication or inability to understand the process.

 

So in fact an example not in this context would be a debt in a care home for instance which would possibly not be vulnerable, given the support which is available to them. The vulnerability would have to be in relation to the individual enforcment action itself.

 

 

To me this is a very dangerous argument! Why? Well I can think of many a situation that allows a debtor that is vulnerable and living in their own home and provided care by family members and that of the local LA. (Cost cutting exercises by the LA) I totally disagree in principle with this because that fact someone that has a hidden disability will be even more vulnerable due to the fact the EA cannot see this disability.

 

 

With the cost cutting that is affecting many LA's this could cause issues with enforcement. Especially someone that has recently been discharged from a s136 by the local Police. This lists is endless and with that in mind is the train of thought by readers and posters alike being if someone "feels" they fall in to this group would be best advised to inform their LA regardless of enforcement just in case they fall in to arrears and are issued a LO?

 

 

What needs to be looked at closely is those that are in a small group that have fallen through the gaps in the system! As well as those that are being offered help physically emotionally and financially as well as support from varies well known groups of charities and the like. What I find hard to understand is those that have no support nor assistance from the LA/Social Services and others being missed when it come to dealing with all forms of debt.

 

 

Cognitive awareness is also a serious problem that can cause issues when dealing with enforcement, you will have to Google this yourself for this answer. You will also need to be aware that no-one can be labelled vulnerable unless they know about it. Sometimes this is not as obvious as we may like to think. There are over 110,000 people suffering a stroke in the UK every year, some side effects cause serious memory issues, some of these 100,000 get no support whatsoever, I can argue this with many a disease but wont bore you, suffice to say this subject will remain a very touchy subject.... Rightly or wrongly....

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Nope! This is one critical reason why vulnerability for enforcement purposes and vulnerability for benefit purposes must remain different (and in reality are often very different anyway, with some overlap). That is why, in my response early this morning, I referred to the National Standards s.77 guideline definitions and deliberately ignored Mikeymack's benefit related ones. (Sorry MM lol!)

 

 

 

No need to say sorry its fine.

 

 

I also disagree with your post in as much as you state that some type of overlap happens, this type of pick and chose is not going to assist anyone is it? Not from where I am sitting. What I mean by that is there is NO STANDARD is there and maybe there is room to make it so?

 

 

18 months in and still no definitive answer, I think this should now become a priority and have it set in stone....

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This thread has begun with an erroneous concept and so can go nowhere other than round in circles.

You seem unwilling or unable to grasp the basic concept of vulnerability as regards enforcment, all the instances you sited most certainly do not.

I am only sorry that your thread here has prevented any relavant and accurate comment being put up for discussion. I will sit and hope that inactivity on this thread will encourage such an event from other sources.

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This thread has begun with an erroneous concept and so can go nowhere other than round in circles.

You seem unwilling or unable to grasp the basic concept of vulnerability as regards enforcment, all the instances you sited most certainly do not.

I am only sorry that your thread here has prevented any relavant and accurate comment being put up for discussion. I will sit and hope that inactivity on this thread will encourage such an event from other sources.

 

 

I would like to ask you what are your qualifications in Law and Mental Health that allows you to make such a comment? So folks we now have a definitive answer there are no vulnerable persons and enforcement can continue unabated.

 

 

DB please feel free to hit the little button that says thread tools, then move to unsubscribe that will be much easier to do than ridicule a fellow poster that has an interest in this topic.

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It would seem that a debt must be paid and the EA is allowed to do what the hell they like irrespective of mitigating circumstances, or an apparent or hidden issue that prevents the debtor understanding the seriousness of the situation would that be it in a nutshell DB?

 

Yes a debt should be repaid, but the added costs of enforcement are no solution when the original principal is wholly unaffordable, and further the debtor is away with the fairies, as in addicted to Crystal Meth and on Cloud 9, or has other serious Mental Health issues that impinge on their financial acuity so has no comprehension of the situation.

 

Maybe we need to step back and research this a bit more.

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BN this was the reason for the thread in the first place and that was to see if it is possible to find a level ground on this subject, hard as it maybe.

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UB any circumstances which effect the fact of liability will have bee addressed when the LIABILITY order or warrant, judgement, is issued. The EAs job is to enforce that order not to over ride the court and decide that the judgement was wrong.

This is not what vulnerability in the case of enforcment is about.

 

and no this particular aspect does not need further research it is completely transparent.

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Final point on here. If anyone thinks that there can be a definition for a vulnerable person in regards to enforcement, they are wrong, the guidence is clear that the indicators only describe the groups where vulnerability may be more likely to occur. This must always be the case. Every single enforcment will be individual and the circumstances of the debtor likewise.

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Excellent a plan for other councils, irrespective of vulnerability Enforcement and EA's only make a problem worse. Squaring the circle of ability to pay with the possible trebling of a debt by using bailiffs is ludicrous. Increasing debt by using enforcement that increases it is possibly an oxymoron.

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No need to say sorry its fine.

 

 

I also disagree with your post in as much as you state that some type of overlap happens, this type of pick and chose is not going to assist anyone is it? Not from where I am sitting. What I mean by that is there is NO STANDARD is there and maybe there is room to make it so?

 

 

18 months in and still no definitive answer, I think this should now become a priority and have it set in stone....

 

You can disagree all you like. You are as entitled as the next person to be wrong! :wink: There is an overlap in vulnerability between vulnerable people for enforcement issues and vulnerable people for benefit purposes.

 

The very fact I state there is some overlap suggests, ipso facto, there are also discrete areas for each - think of it as a Venn diagram. This means there is no standard - well done for spotting that, as it was already implied, and for typing it in bold, massive letters - that was clever.

 

Could there be a standard? There already is - read s.77 of the National Standards. Vulnerability has to be taken on a case by case basis. This is precisely why there has been no attempt to draw up a definitive list, a point you appear not to grasp. It is impossible to set it in stone, to use your words.

 

As for the link to Mendip council, the Lib Dems have won nothing. Those safeguards are already there in the National Standards. The achievement of having bailiffs used as a last resort sounds great. I hope they succeed in stopping a single bailiff having any work whatsoever, that would be superb. We'll watch that space - maybe an FOI further down the line (if they still exist).

 

My feeling is the LGO will take a far tougher line on vulnerability than many think. It will be interesting to see whether I'm proven right or wrong on that point, but that is what I suspect.

 

I don't think there is much more I can add purposefully to this discussion at the moment.

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