Thousands of children in Southwark have been scared by the bailiffs coming round to collect council tax debt, according to new figures released this week.
More than fifteen thousand referrals were made to bailiffs in Southwark in one year, of which The Children’s Society estimates 4,000 had children living at home.
With an average of 2.4 children in each family, the charity believes more than 7,000 children in the borough have witnessed things like their furniture being removed or threatening behaviour on their own doorstep.
Figures for Lambeth were even worse, with 19,611 households referred to bailiffs in the same year.
The Children’s Society is now calling for local authorities to put a stop to bailiff visits to households with children, after their research revealed that councils across England sent out debt collectors on 1.3m occasions between 2013-14.
Sherry Peck, London Area Director for The Children’s Society, said: “Bailiffs should simply not be sent round to families with children. Instead, councils should give struggling residents a chance to negotiate affordable repayments, and make sure every family in trouble is offered independent debt advice. Every child and teenager deserves to feel safe in their own home without being scared of the next knock at the door.”
Southwark’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Fiona Colley, said since the Children’s Society received figures from the council under a Freedom of Information request in 2014, it had already reduced the use of bailiffs by 73 per cent.
“We share the Children’s Society’s concerns about the impact of debt on families and children,” said Cllr Colley. “We work closely with families in arrears, and proactively contact them to try to resolve any issues and agree affordable repayment plans. We also provide financial assistance and support for residents through the Welfare Hardship Fund and the Southwark Emergency Support Scheme, and our Rightfully Yours team has helped residents gain £5.9m extra income by ensuring they’re claiming everything they’re entitled to,” she said.