Shergroup’s help for those in desperate times
 
Soon High Court enforcement officers will be offering debtors help through a new charity called the Sherbet Foundation. It is being set up by Shergroup, which after years of specialising in enforcement as one of its core activities is now able to offer debtors some help. Shergroup Chief Executive, Claire Sandbrook, explains.

Ever since Sheriffs have been around they have been enforcing court orders without “great grievance to the debtors.” At Shergroup we are very proud of our heritage from this ancient office, and now feel it is time that where we see hardship and genuine poverty we do something more than just report and walk away.

Sheriffs, and now HCEOs, have always prided themselves on handling the public in a professional and balanced manner but the truth is from time to time we do see individuals and families who are really struggling to pay their debts or keep a roof over their heads. As court officers we always felt that whilst we could empathise we could do little to help. However as these instances have been more acute in recent years we have decided to help where we see families in financial difficulty and do something positive. It won’t affect the court or the creditor’s position but it will mean that the people involved can hopefully have a helping hand from a very unlikely source. Our Officers have seen this as a very positive move to leave debtors with a positive impression of the court in some very difficult circumstances. I have the greatest respect for Shergroup’s enforcement officers and how they handle the public and to me this just sends out another positive signal to anyone looking at enforcement that today our services are far more sophisticated than ever before.

This latest innovation from Shergroup comes at a time when the famous maxim “an Englishman’s home is his castle” is on the brink of being overturned and 400 years of history changed in its wake.

This has been met with inevitable controversy. In an industry already in the firing line for an apparent lack of professional standards, the Citizens Advice Bureau made its thoughts clear on how the unpaid credit card bill could soon be “all the excuse a bailiff needs to break into your home and seize belongings – with the full blessing of the law”.

The CAB protects people who need advice. The charity has always highlighted its concerns that vulnerable people are more at risk from bailiffs abusing their powers. Now the publication and debate surrounding the TCE Act only amplifies their already well-rehearsed concerns.

As an Authorised HCEO, Claire and her team have listened carefully to the concerns of the CAB and other organisations that want to protect vulnerable members of the public. Shergroup enforcement officers will use their unique vantage point to recognise genuine hardship and to offer some form of assistance.

Naturally we don’t condone the irresponsible use of money but at the end of the day are we so hard, so detached, there is nothing we can do.

Now Shergroup is setting up the Sherbet Foundation, which will be accessible to individuals or families. We can use the time when the Officer is at the door or standing with the debtor inside the home, to evaluate if they could use a helping hand. It could be as simple as helping to have the washing machine fixed; perhaps the parents would welcome a break from the children so a children’s holiday can be organised or the debtor/s just need some counselling on what to do next.

The enforcement officer can offer them a leaflet, which encourages them to apply for a Sherbet grant. The officer will only use the grant form when there are clearly no goods available to be seized. As we photograph where we go and what we see, it will be easy for our judgment creditor clients to appreciate that they are barking up the wrong tree in seeking their money from this method of enforcement.

Of course there may be goods at the address, which can be seized, and the creation of the Sherbet Charity won’t affect the Officer’s ability to enforce the judgment.

It will be for our Trustees to evaluate the cases that come through the grant-making system to make the final decision on grants that can be awarded.

Sherbet is our answer to these very real, very human problems. Instead of bailiffs being tarred with the same brush as bullies, we think we can actually do something positive to start to change the image of the enforcement industry.

The Foundation will address a real need in the enforcement sector to use a position of power for social good. And Shergroup now has clients who are coming forward to nominate the Sherbet Foundation as their chosen charity, and with support coming from the ICM, and other brand names in the credit industry Claire says she and the Shergroup team are “overwhelmed by the fantastic support that Sherbet is receiving”. She adds “We hope many of those who rely on enforcement services to collect in their toughest debts will join in to make a positive statement that enforcement doesn’t have to lead to crisis – instead it can be a step towards professional help.”

If you or your company would like to support the Sherbet Foundation call Shergroup on 0845 890 9200 to find out more.

 
 
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