Council Tax: vulnerable persons
We recognise that certain groups of customers may be vulnerable.
Whilst not all customers in these groups may be vulnerable, we will consider customer's individual circumstances where a potential vulnerability is identified.
These groups may include, but are not restricted to:
- Pregnant women or recent parents
- Long term sickness, serious illness or frailty
- Physical disability
- People with learning difficulties, or mental health problems
- Recent bereavement
- Severe financial difficulties and/or Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Pension Credit or Employment Support Allowance
- Customers with communication difficulties
- Customers with a history of alcohol or drug misuse
- Victims of domestic violence
Where we are aware that a person may be vulnerable we will adapt our debt recovery and collection procedure accordingly to minimise any hardship or distress.
We recognise that certain debt recovery options are not appropriate where a customer is identified as vulnerable, and we will act to personalise the action we take to reflect this.
When dealing with vulnerable customers we will adopt key principles that our officers will adhere to:
- We will maintain an up to date record of our customer identified as being vulnerable.
- We will review the personal circumstances of our identified vulnerable customers before taking any debt recovery action.
- We will review the personal circumstances of every customer prior to issuing a Court Summons.
- We will review the personal circumstances of each customer before passing a debt to enforcement agents for collection.
- Should a customer be identified as in receipt of Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit, we will arrange for their debt to be paid by deductions from their benefit rather than the use of enforcement agents, to avoid extra debt being incurred.
- Prior to taking bankruptcy action against a customer we will take pro-active action to contact Northamptonshire County Council to identify whether the customer may be vulnerable.
- We will direct our customers to other sources of debt advice, such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Law and our own debt counselling service.
- We will monitor our complaints procedure to identify any trends.
- Our enforcement agents will be obliged under contract to advise the council of any customers they identify as possibly being vulnerable.
- Our contract with our enforcement agents will insist that they maintain a vulnerable persons and safe guarding children policy.
- Our enforcement agents will be instructed to return Liability Orders to us for any customers identified as in receipt of a deductible benefit.
- Where a vulnerable customer is identified, if necessary, we will visit the customer at their home to discuss their debts.
- Should there be a communication issue we will use an interpretation service for persons whose first language is not English, including British Sign Language.
- We will maintain a specific complaint procedure for customers unhappy with the conduct of enforcement agents.
- We will monitor our enforcement agents, and meet regularly with them to review their practices.
- We will regularly meet with advice agencies in order to discuss practical ways assist vulnerable customers.
- We will work with advice agencies to agree repayment schedules that are affordable, and recognise a customer's priority debts.
- We will publicise debt advice contact details with our literature.
- We will consider a customer's total indebtedness to us when considering repayment arrangements.
- We will work with other areas of the council (e.g. Housing) to identify possible vulnerable customers and develop a joint strategy for repayment of any debts.
- Where allowed in law we will share data regarding vulnerable customers with other interested parties.
- We will promote our Council Tax Reduction scheme, exemptions and discounts on our literature and on our website.
- We will encourage customers to contact us if they are experiencing financial hardship.
- We may ask customers experiencing financial hardship to complete personal budget sheets, to enable us to agree fully informed repayment schedules that are affordable to the customer, and in our best interests.
- If we do not accept a repayment arrangement, we will fully explain why.