Guidance for Insolvency Practitioners in relation to the coronavirus outbreak
The coronavirus emergency is unprecedented and both the Scottish and UK governments’ responses to the crisis are ever-changing. This article covers ICAS’ view on Insolvency Practitioners’ (IP) responsibilities as matters stand (19 March) and outlines the position with insolvency monitoring visits. As matters progress, guidance will be updated.
Official government advice is that those who can work from home should be doing so. In view of that advice, we are aware that a large proportion of ICAS’ IP member firms have implemented contingency planning and are now largely working remotely.
ICAS is sympathetic to the challenges IPs face in managing their workload in the current environment. However, in accordance with other regulatory models, ICAS’ expectation is that firms will have contingency planning in place which should allow them to comply with statutory requirements imposed on them by legislation.
We do understand that the current situation could present challenges due to remote working and staff/IP absence due to ill health. However, it is important that members have workable continuation plans in place for use in the event of their incapacity.
Members should have a nominated alternate who is able to act for them if required during any protracted period of incapacity. If you do not have an alternate in place, or have not made ICAS aware of your alternate’s identity, please contact us.
Members should ensure that insolvent estates are always properly protected, with assets, estate funds and data fully secured during any periods of disruption.
Open communication and dialogue with stakeholders is encouraged in order to manage expectations, particularly where issues can be foreseen. Firms should make full use of circulars, website updates, social media, telephone and email communications as necessary.
Wherever legislation permits, IPs should consider making use of virtual/electronic communications.
No face-to-face insolvency monitoring visits will be carried out until at least 31 May 2020.
If you require any assistance, please get in touch with us via email@example.com.
ICAS has produced a hub of information and resources for members and their clients.
Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB)
AiB has released a 'Dear Trustee' letter containing COVID-19 contingency arrangements. Among the changes detailed in the letter are:
- Suspension of all division and sale action related to occupied properties and the halting of all evictions until further notice in bankruptcy cases. AiB “hope trustees will be in a position to show similar forbearance in light of the prevailing circumstances”.
- If you are requesting determination of a fee of over £15,000 in a 12-month period, please do not send your case files to AiB.
- Current supporting documentation requirements will be relaxed where possible to allow debtor applications to be processed.
- In the event of the trustee under a PTD being unable to obtain a physical signature, AiB will accept electronic signatures on statutory forms and paperwork.
- AiB has decided not to revoke DAS debt payment programmes due to non-payment until further notice where the missed payments are a consequence of COVID-19.
On a general note, as there will be fewer staff available to answer telephone calls, AiB has requested that, where possible, contact is made via their case management systems or by email.
For the latest information from the Insolvency Service, including information relating to the Redundancy Payments Service, please refer to the Insolvency Service coronavirus page.
Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland)
For the latest information from the Insolvency Service, Department for the Economy, please refer to the Department’s web page.
Changes to civil court business have been announced by Scottish Courts and Tribunals.
England and Wales Courts
For the latest information in relation to Courts in England and Wales, please refer to the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary web page.
Northern Ireland Courts
For the latest information from the Department of Justice in relation to Courts and tribunals in Northern Ireland, please refer to the Department’s web page.
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
The ICO has released a statement for data controllers which deals with the current situation. The ICO can be contacted on +44 (0)303 123 1113 if you wish to discuss a specific data protection matter.
The FCA has provided information for firms on coronavirus (COVID-19) response.