In this week’s Leading the Way blog, we speak to David Knight and Bryan Wall, Assistant Enforcement Agent Managers, about completing Level 3 Safeguarding Certification and how this will support the vulnerable during lockdown and beyond.
Since legislation changed in 2014, safeguarding measures have improved across the industry and there is now a genuine understanding that importance must be placed on ensuring Enforcement Agents (EAs) are able and willing to identify and report potential safeguarding issues. This has become all the more prominent since the coronavirus interrupted all of our lives. Whilst COVID-19 does not affect how safeguarding works, it is currently an additional factor towards vulnerability and has made renewed training and understanding essential to provide the best service possible.
The need for safeguarding is serious regardless of the reasons behind each case. It transcends the industry and is less of a work expectation, more an ethical and human responsibility. It is everyone’s job to look out for people they encounter who appear to be facing difficult life challenges. The EA management team deal directly with EAs who will, quite regularly, be the first people to come across and identify a person showcasing vulnerable behaviours or circumstances. It is imperative that EAs have a clear and easy process to follow and can report any safeguarding issues they may come across in detail. Through training and certification, we are now better placed to help EAs refer customers to local authorities and social services so they can get the support they need as efficiently and quickly as possible. Our industry is an easy target for criticism at times, but the reality is many people now receiving support are doing so because an EA contacted them and reported that help was needed.
Its also important to consider the mental health, safety and welfare of our own employees and clients. Anybody can face difficult circumstances and we hope that increasing the number of employees that are trained in these matters will assist with any future customer needs, whether internal or external. Our direct employment model also helps to ensure that Bristow & Sutor EAs are well trained on vulnerability and always engage with debtors with the mindset of finding appropriate resolutions, not just collecting money. I would like to see a time where every EA across the enforcement industry is trained to Level 1 Safeguarding Certification as standard. My Level 3 Certification was a straight-forward 7-module online course that took no longer than 6 hours to complete; a small sacrifice when considering the benefits and outcomes that might be achieved. from allocating this time.
Bristow & Sutor has always been ethically minded and we are proud of our efforts to ensure we provide an EA workforce that is comprehensively trained on vulnerability. The importance of Safeguarding remains one of our top priorities. EAs need to be able to perform their duties and report safeguarding concerns to be handled by the management team in the enforcement office so they can continue with their day. That is why it is so essential for people in similar positions to David and myself, to always remain aware of the latest innovations and be trained to a high level. Our EAs can rest assured that when they relay back to us something they have concerns about, we will fill out the necessary documentation and report their concerns to the relevant local authorities or support services and our client, freeing them to continue with their role for the rest of the day.
Since completing certification at the beginning of this year, I have already seen this work in practice. Information on cases have been brought to my attention by EAs, which I have assessed and upon reviewing the details, returned to clients with notifications on the case. I am delighted that this will now lead to the subjects of those cases getting access to the help they need. This is not revolutionary in practice as Bristow & Sutor has successfully referred cases of vulnerability for many years but increasing understanding through training means there is less chance of a small indicator being overlooked.
It is hard to notice some signs of safeguarding related problems unless you have worked through similar examples, which makes the variety of sessions included in training so useful. This can range from identifying self-neglect and abuse to advice on handling DBS registers, multi-agency working environments and the timeframes and requirements of reporting. It is easy to adapt this logic and principles to the current health pandemic and our EAs do this daily, wearing extensive PPE on visits, not currently entering properties for any reason, and retreating and reporting any occasion when a debtor is self-isolating or is vulnerable due to the pandemic.
Fundamentally, our message is that if anyone spots signs of vulnerability, abuse or neglect, they must report this to authorities that can help. Turning a blind eye is never acceptable and with correctly trained management staff and processes in place, we are best placed to ensure this is never the case.
Bristow & Sutor would like to also congratulate Jacob Hann (General Office Supervisor), Stephen Cowley (Collection Officer) and Gareth Hyndman (Collection Officer) for obtaining their Safeguarding certifications this month. Everyone at Bristow continues striving to provide the best service possible and is committed to an ethos of Cool, Calm and Collected.