H&F Ethical Debt Collections launches new public sector approach

Revolutionary public-private joint venture to cut use of bailiffs by public sector bodies

Hammersmith & Fulham Council and debt purchaser 1st Credit have today officially launched their joint venture, H&F Ethical Debt Collections, at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Birmingham.

The partnership changes the way public sector debts are handled, ending the two-tier treatment of customers in debt by applying Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) standards to public as well as private sector debts. Those with public sector debts too often experience poor customer treatment and high levels of court action.

H&F Ethical Debt Collections is committed to drastically reducing the use of bailiffs in the public sector, the use of which often exacerbates hardship for individuals and places greater burden on the public purse.

The joint venture will now roll out its services to other local government organisations. It will be raising awareness at this week’s Local Government Association conference, which is due to attract more than 1,300 local government delegates.

1st Credit is an award-winning debt purchaser, known for taking a highly ethical approach to debt collection – in particular treating customers fairly. It has a +44 Net Promoter Score and consistently achieves top ratings from Investor in Customers.

H&F Ethical Debt Collections has already started taking over Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s collections, beginning with former tenant arrears and housing benefit overpayments. Other debt-types will follow on a phased basis, with council departments given the power to decide how and when to use the services, sharing their insights and expertise.

As well as debt recovery and commercial aims, the joint venture will help residents avoid debt by identifying individuals at risk of falling into financial difficulty and working with them to avoid that.

Cllr Max Schmid, Cabinet Member for Finance at Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said the new approach will be transformative.

“We are delighted to launch H&F Ethical Debt Collections at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Birmingham this week. Local government has faced many severe cutbacks and councils are working hard to combat the effects of austerity. At Hammersmith & Fulham we are determined to offer an ethical approach to debt management that helps both residents and councils facing serious financial difficulties.

“Pursuing people aggressively is both damaging and counter-productive. The consequences of bad debt collection can be devastating to the wellbeing of residents. In addition, costs of temporary accommodation, increased demand on temporary housing, health, education and social services resulting from poor debt management put a strain on the public purse.

“There is a huge gulf between best practice in the private sector and normal practice in the public sector and we are determined that Hammersmith & Fulham becomes a shining example of good practice and can help other councils do the same.”

Eddie Nott, UK Managing Director of 1st Credit, added: “It is time for public sector debt collection to change. We have developed analytical, ethical ways of working with individuals in debt to resolve their financial problems – protecting the vulnerable while maximising the money collected.

“With an organisation the size of Hammersmith & Fulham there is enormous scope to set up a system of ethical debt collection that increases efficiencies, raises funds for the council to reinvest in local services and protects its residents from the negative effects of debt.

“We are now able to extend these services to all local government organisations and believe the time is right for transformation in this sector.”

For more information contact:

1st Credit:

Heather Greig-Smith, 07717 456 339, heather@hgsmedia.co.uk

Lizzie Sutton, 07442 505 353, lizziesutton@1stcreditltd.com

Notes to editors:

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is the majority shareholder in the H&F Ethical Debt Collections.

About 1st Credit

1st Credit is a leading UK debt purchase and collection company working with customers to agree payment plans that suit their individual circumstances.

The company is well known for taking an ethical approach to debt collection – in particular for treating customers fairly. It is the only debt purchase company to have achieved the maximum three star rating in the independent Investor in Customers (IIC) assessment for three consecutive years, with an NPS of +44%.

1st Credit has won a string of awards for its approach, including a Customer Experience Award, plus Best Conduct and Compliance Culture and Best Customer Service awards at the 2016 independent Credit Strategy Collections & Customer Service Awards – the sixth time it has won the industry’s compliance award. 1st Credit is an associate subscriber to the Lending Code and is the first business of its kind to achieve an ISO standard for dealing with vulnerability.

Since February 2017, 1st Credit has been part of the European Credit Management Group Intrum Justitia.

About Intrum Justitia

Intrum Justitia is Europe’s leading Credit Management Services (CMS) group, offering comprehensive services, including purchase of receivables, designed to measurably improve clients’ cash flows and long-term profitability. Founded in 1923, Intrum Justitia has some 4,200 employees in 21 markets. Consolidated revenues amounted to about SEK 6.1 billion in 2016. Intrum Justitia AB is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm since 2002. For further information, please visit www.intrum.com