along with other enforcement officers have a clear responsibility
to enforce the orders and judgments of the courts. However
out of that very clear duty they felt they wanted to help
those who were really in hardship and were being pursued
by creditors who probably didn’t appreciate how
tough it was for the family they were visiting.
Shergroup has developed unique “Insight Process”
into the debtor’s circumstances to recognise the
signs of genuine hardship so that Sherbet can offer some
form of assistance. That assistance is being termed a
“Helping Hand” grant, we are not paying off
the debt or stopping eviction but we are offering some
form of help to the family.
How Does The Insight Process Begin?
What we can start to do is use the time when the Officer
is at the door or standing with the debtor inside the
home, to evaluate if the family could use a “helping
hand”. Perhaps the washing machine is on the blink
and the children need clean clothes, perhaps the parents
would welcome a break from the children so a children´s
holiday can be organised or perhaps mum and dad just need
some counselling on what to do next. The Enforcement Officer
can offer the family a leaflet which encourages them to
apply for a Sherbet grant.
An Enforcement Officer will only offer a grant form when
there are clearly no goods available to be taken to pay
the debt and the family and the children appear to be
in genuine hardship. As Shergroup Enforcement Officers
photograph where they go and what they see, it becomes
easier for the Trustees to see some of the insight which
has led the Enforcement Officer to suggest the family
apply for a Sherbet grant.
What If The Family Has Goods Which Can Be Taken?
Of course if the debtor and his or her family have goods
which can be taken to sell at auction and a payment arrangement
cannot be negotiated then the creation of Sherbet won´t
affect the Enforcement Officer´s ability to enforce
Nevertheless, what Sherbet does is open the eyes of the creditor to the situation that the family is living in. Enforcement Officers are the eyes and ears of those who instruct them.
Shergroup is encouraging creditors who work with them
to take the “garden path test” and try to
visualise what the term “goods” really means.
In a domestic setting the item which is worth something
is going to the family car. If that is available and checks
bear out that the vehicle is registered to the debtor
then in the absence of payment or a plan for payment the
car is likely to be removed.
However, imagine what an Enforcement Officer might find inside a typical British home. If we move inside the house and visualise the type of goods that could be removed, usually it's pretty standard bits and bobs, much of which is covered by legislation which prevents it from being taken anyway.
What Legislation Controls The Seizure and Removal
High Court Enforcement Officers are guided in statute
by Section 99, Schedule 7, paragraph 9 (2)(a) of the Courts
Act 2003 which lays down what an Enforcement Officer may
seize. The goods which may be seized and ultimately sold
|any goods of the execution debtor that are not exempt
||any money, banknotes, bills of exchange, promissory
notes, bonds, specialties or securities for money
belonging to the execution debtor.
The same paragraph under sub-section (3) then goes
on to define what is meant by “exempt goods”
|such tools, books, vehicles and other items of equipment
as are necessary to the execution debtor for use personally
by him in his employment, business or vocation;
||such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment
and provisions as are necessary for satisfying the
basic domestic needs of the execution debtor and his
Enforcement Officers when visiting the homes of the general
public use this guidance to evaluate what can and cannot
be seized. Luxury items such as Plasma TV´s, cinema
surround sound systems, laptops, antiques, paintings and
jewellery all fall outside the statutory guidance.
of what the Enforcement Officer sees will be in the sitting
room, dining room and kitchen. Officers don’t go
routing through drawers and cupboards to locate “goods”.
Efforts are made to maintain the dignity of the debtor
through what must be seen as a humiliating and traumatic
ordeal. Look at the picture below: is this all this poor
person had to offer us – her engagement, wedding
and eternity rings? How would we even convince that person
to remove those rings from her fingers and allow her to
keep her dignity?
But of course there are always people in the system
who are less than honest, who try to hide their assets
and play the system. Sherbet is not designed to be of
any assistance to these types of judgment debtor.
How Does The Grant Making Process Work?
Naturally the initial Insight Process is based on what
the Officer sees and this may be misleading. It is therefore
important that the Grant Making Process helps to fill
in the blanks so that only those people in genuine need
Once the Enforcement Officer hands out a Grant Form the
person in debt has to complete this and send it to Sherbet’s
Grant Assessment Team. Criteria are set on how a grant
can then be made. If an application meets the criteria
the “Helping Hand Grant” can be made. Sherbet
is currently working to offer a number of types of different
grant to help families affected by enforcement action.
Four times a year the Sherbet Trustees meet to evaluate
the cases that come through the Grant Assessment Process
to make the final decision on grants that need further
What Insight Do The Trustees Have?
As part of the Grant Making Process Enforcement Officers
are asked to include in their reports a separate comment
on why they feel a Sherbet Grant should be offered to
the person or family in debt.
From being with that family and seeing its difficulties
first hand Sherbet can identify families who have been
affected by enforcement action and their wider debt problem.
the children saw the bailiff talking to mummy about taking
the car away, or saw daddy’s prized plasma loaded
on to a removal van. Perhaps dad came home from work and
shouted at mum or mum just sat on the bottom of the stairs
crying about how what would she do if she lost her home.
Sherbet is a way to help in these very real, very human
problems. Imagine that the Enforcement Officer –
instead of being the baddie – actually recognises
that here is a family who could do with a “helping
Perhaps the children could go on a holiday to give mum
and dad a break, or perhaps some professional stress counselling
for either mum or dad could take some strife out of family
life and enable them to cope with their situation.