Competent authorities and approved intermediaries
DROs involve a partnership between The Insolvency Service (through the official receiver) and the professional debt advice sector.
The division of responsibility is that approved intermediaries working for Competent Authorities will assist the debtor in making an application for the DRO to The Insolvency Service via an online application form (see Part 2) (making all the necessary eligibility checks – see Part 1). The Insolvency Service is the agency responsible for assessing the application, granting the DRO and administering the effects.
A list of the currently authorised competent authorities is given at Annex A to this chapter.
To be granted authorisation as a competent authority, the organisation has to demonstrate through an application process (see paragraph 46.99) to the Secretary of State that it:
In addition, The Secretary of State must be satisfied that the body making the application is a fit a proper body to approve individuals to act as intermediaries (see paragraph 46.100).
The Secretary of State’s function (see paragraph 46.105) is carried out by The Service by a combination of OROS, Policy Section and IP Section.
The Regulations [note 4] set out the process by which the Competent Authority has to apply to the Secretary of State for authorisation.
Without going into detail here, the information that the organisation has to supply in the application covers the following areas:
The Secretary of State cannot grant authorisation to a competent authority unless he/she is satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper body. The Secretary of State must consider the following when making this decision [note 5]:
If the Secretary of State is satisfied with the contents of the body’s application, he/she may grant authorisation for it to act as a Competent Authority. The Secretary of State must, on making this decision, send a letter to the body advising them if they have unlimited designation, or limited designation (where it is only authorised to approve persons of a particular description as intermediaries) [note 6].
Where it appears to the Secretary of State that a body:
The Secretary of State may withdraw an existing designation [note 7].
Once a body has received the appropriate designation, it may begin to appoint individuals as approved intermediaries. The role of the approved intermediary is to guide the debtor through the DRO application process and to make the application on the debtor’s behalf. An individual cannot act for the debtor in the DRO process without being an approved intermediary.
The intermediary must make an application for authorisation (see paragraph 46.106) to the Competent Authority, who must be satisfied that the individual is a fit and proper person to act as an approved intermediaries [note 8].
An approved intermediary must be an individual (a natural legal person) and not any organisation.
The legislation [note 9] sets out grounds under which a individual will be automatically prevented from being approved as an intermediary. These grounds include the following:
Applications to a Competent Authority by an individual for approval to act as an intermediary must be in writing and contain, amongst other things, the following [note 10]: