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The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has commended a new community safety toolkit to protect elderly, vulnerable a...
The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has commended a new community safety toolkit to protect elderly, vulnerable and socially excluded consumers from rogue traders.

The toolkit, funded by the DTI's Modernisation Fund, emanated from a year-long research project into community safety issues that affect elderly, vulnerable and socially excluded consumers, by South East Trading Standards Authorities (SETSA).

SETSA, taking on board the responsibilities from the Crime and Disorder Act, identified the need in their authorities to address the protection of these consumers from rogue traders, itinerant traders, bogus callers and those engaged in illegal and unfair practices. A final report listed the following recommendations:

* Improve current status of agreements and protocols.

* Strengthen links with Crime and Disorder partners.

* Strengthen links with statutory voluntary agencies, eg Neighbourhood Watch, Health and District Nurses, Social Services assessment teams and Home Care service providers.

* Form a task force to pull together overlaps, avoid duplication, target initiatives tackling itinerant and rogue trading and bogus calling.

* Further explore the use of police message broadcasting and geographical information systems to disseminate targeted information. Explore linking with statutory and non-statutory agencies.

* Further develop the toolkit by incorporating other agency tools for inclusion. Place on the Crime Reduction website and launch nationally via seminars and conferences.

* Secure funding to launch nationally the 'Think Twice' vulnerable consumer advice booklet and video.

These recommendations have been carried forward with the toolkit which focuses on integrating best practice by combining four key elements: Information, Advice and Advocacy, Self Regulation and Hard Target Enforcement.

The toolkit addresses these issues by listing schemes and initiatives from around the UK, along with promoting consistency in enforcement and the promotion of links with other enforcement agencies and external partners to the benefit of intelligence gathering.

Consumer minister Melanie Johnson said: 'The government is determined to crack down on the unscrupulous practices of rogue traders who target vulnerable consumers in their home. 'This toolkit, supported by the DTI's Modernisation Fund, will be a real step forward, helping to protect consumers and helping trading standards officers to beat the cheats.'

Tony Northcott, TSI lead officer for public relations said: 'TSI is pleased to endorse this initiative by SETSA. This is an excellent example of what can be achieved by a few trading standards services, backed by government funding, for the benefit of all UK local authorities. 'It will enable better protection for those in society who are at high risk from rogue traders.'

Dave Marshall, head of East Sussex Trading Standards and SETSA project sponsor said: 'This initiative places Trading Standards services at the heart of community, partnership working in the fight against rogue trading.

'It shows how focusing on a problem that affects, in this case, the most vulnerable consumers has, with multi-agency support, real outcomes in support not only of consumer protection but of the fight against crime.'


* SETSA is a partnership between the South East Trading Standards Authorities of the following councils: Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Medway, Portsmouth, Southampton, Surrey & West Sussex.

* Over the next few months, SETSA will conduct a series of seminars across the UK to raise awareness of best practice schemes and initiatives that combat these activities and help protect consumers. The first regional seminar takes place in the South East on 28 June at the Hawth Theatre Crawley West Sussex.

* The DTI provided£129,000 to SETSA to fund the project.

* Modernisation Fund: The DTI has made a commitment to raising the standard of consumer protection through a£30 million Modernisation Fund. The fund runs for three years (2001 - 2004) and is targeted at 4 main areas, which are: * raising trading standards capabilities * effective enforcement * information & advice to consumers * business and consumer safety. The DTI wants to help Trading Standards Departments develop new working practices and partnerships which bring benefits to consumers and businesses, through more consistent, focused and effective enforcement. In the 2nd year of the Fund (2002 - 2003)£10m is available. A large proportion of this will be available to Trading Standards for projects that encourage cross boundary working and promote effective enforcement. A leaflet outlining the full details of the Fund is available from the DTI order line 0870 1502 5000 and will be on the DTI website at or the LACORS website at

* At present, legislation falls short of providing the most protection to vulnerable consumers from rogues, as it is a crime considered small compared to many others, for example burglary. The police often write cases off as 'no further action - advice given'. It would then fall into the category of miscellaneous and not be recorded in national figures. Since specific codes have been logged for rogue trading and bogus calling in 2000, the TSI now knows that 16,000 incidents were reported that year, highlighting the seriousness of the problem. It is estimated that the actual number is now at least three times greater.

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