The story of a Croydon teenager, working hard in a zero hours job, but mired in fines, mounting debts and interest payments, whose desperate situation ultimately saw him take his own life, will be featured in an emotionally charged docu-drama on BBC1 on Wednesday night.
And today, Jerome Rogers’ family visited Parliament to campaign for Government action on the bailiff industry.
The family and their Croydon Central MP, Sarah Jones, met the Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer, before presenting to a cross-party group of MPs.
The tragic story of Jerome Rogers is told in the BBC docu-drama Killed By My Debt, which is transmitted at 9pm tomorrow.
In January 2015, the New Addington youngster got his first real job, as a self-employed motorbike courier for CitySprint. His weekly earnings varied dramatically – some weeks he was taking home £89, others as little as £18. Most of Rogers’ work was transporting blood between London hospitals.
But his variable income meant that when he received two traffic fines, each of £65 that he was unable to pay immediately, fees and charges rapidly escalated the debt to over £1,000 and became unmanageable. Every week Rogers still had to pay for his bike, insurance, petrol, CitySprint tracker and jacket.
Despite his efforts to seek an affordable repayment plan, bailiffs clamped his motorbike, meaning Rogers was then unable to work.
After increasingly desperate attempts to resolve the situation, he went to the woods where he’d played as a child and hanged himself. He was 20 years old.
“Our family can never turn back the clock,” Tracey Rogers, Jerome’s mother, said today.
“The heavy-handed actions of bailiffs made a reasonable person like Jerome feel like there was no way out. The Government needs to take action so the circumstances around Jerome’s death can never happen again. Affordable payment plans should be something you are offered, not a privilege you have to beg for. If Ministers listen to why bailiffs need to be regulated, perhaps other families can be spared the hurt that we’ve been caused.”
Jerome’s family and MP Jones are now campaigning for legislative change to improve the operation and supervision of bailiffs and private sector debt-collecting firms. A recent report from a coalition of national charities shows how aggressive and threatening bailiff behaviour is not uncommon, with thousands of people suffering financial and emotional hardship as a result.
The Rogers family today met the All Party Parliamentary Group on Debt and Personal Finance, chaired by Yvonne Fovargue MP, alongside the director of Killed By My Debt, Joe Bullman, and representatives of the Taking Control campaign – a coalition of 11 charities who are pressing the Government for an independent regulator to control how private sector bailiff firms operate.
“I have been deeply touched not only by Jerome’s story, but by the dignified campaigning of his family to try to ensure that his situation acts as a catalyst for positive change,” Jones told Inside Croydon today.
“The lack of independent oversight of private sector bailiff firms is shocking. MPs from all parties need to come together to bring about independent regulation of bailiffs and fundamental reform.
“Alongside our calls for a bailiff regulator I’m calling on local councils to stop using bailiffs for people who are financially vulnerable, such as those on Council Tax Support, something already being done by more than 20 councils.
“I’m also calling for councils to stop using Newlyn Bailiffs in light of their conduct in this case.”
Fovargue described the tragic circumstances around Jerome Rogers as something which “must not be allowed to happen again”.
“The Government reforms of 2014 have failed to stamp out the threats, intimidation and other bad behaviours that are all too common in the bailiff industry,” the all-party parliamentary group’s chair said.
“Which is why in their forthcoming review, ministers need to look afresh at controlling the industry.”
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