We recognise that certain people may be vulnerable. This guidance is designed to take account of vulnerable clients and reasonable adjustments that will be considered in the communication and recovery of Council Tax debt.
It does not replace the Council's Vulnerable Person Policy. Because Council Tax is used to pay for essential services within the community, being a vulnerable person doesn't mean that you do not pay, unless you are exempt for some other reason.
Who might be considered a vulnerable person?
While not all people in the groups below may be vulnerable, we will consider customer's individual circumstances where a potential vulnerability is identified.
Examples of vulnerable people may include, but are not restricted to:
What will the Council do to help vulnerable people?
If we are aware that a person may be vulnerable, we will adapt our debt recovery and collection procedure as appropriate, to avoid distress or hardship
We recognise that certain debt recovery options are not appropriate where a person is identified as vulnerable. To reflect this, we will adapt any action we take.
It is important that you communicate with the Council. This means you should tell us about your vulnerability at the earliest opportunity. We may ask you to provide some evidence, such as a doctor's letter, to establish the nature of your vulnerability. This is to ensure that we are clear on any particular needs you may have so we can help you.
If you haven't already, please complete an Income and Expenditure Form. This will give us an accurate picture of your financial situation.
If you want someone to discuss the account on your behalf you will need to write to us and give the details of the person or persons you would like us to speak to.
If you have a support worker, social worker or care coordinator you will need to inform us of their name, organisation and contact details. If you do not do this, we will infer that you are capable of handling your own financial matters.
Please keep us informed of any changes to your circumstances and any address change.
You should make any payments you have offered whilst we are considering your offer.
Make sure that you look into any services that our staff may recommend to you, so you can decide if they are relevant to your circumstances.
We will try to help you with your vulnerability; however, you must be realistic with the repayment options available.
What else do I need to know?
When dealing with vulnerable customers, our staff will follow the key principles below:
- We will maintain an up-to-date record of the person 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 each vulnerable person before passing a debt to the Council's Enforcement Agents for collection.
- If a customer is 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 contact Devon 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, and our own commissioned debt counselling service.
- We will monitor our complaints procedure to identify any trends.
- The Enforcement Agents will be obliged under contract to advise the council of any customers they identify as possibly being vulnerable. If they do son, we will reconsider if Enforcement Agents are the most effective way of working with that person.
- The Council's contract with the Enforcement Agents will insist that they maintain vulnerable persons and safeguarding children policies.
- Our Enforcement Agents will be instructed to return Liability Orders to the Council for any customers identified as in receipt of a deductible benefit.
- In the event of a communication issue we will use an interpretation service for persons whose first language is not English. This includes British Sign Language.
- We will work with advice agencies to agree repayment schedules that are affordable, and recognise a customer's priority debts.
- We will take into account the customer's total amount of debt owed to the Council when considering repayment arrangements.
- We will work with other areas of the Council (e.g. Housing and Benefits) to identify possible vulnerable customers and develop a joint strategy for repayment of any debts.
- Where the law allows, we will share data regarding vulnerable customers with our partner agencies, such as the NHS, Devon County Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
- 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. This allows us to agree fully informed repayment schedules that customers can afford, and are in the best interest of the Council.
- If we do not accept a repayment arrangement, we will fully explain why.