Thank you for contacting me about plans for a ‘breathing space’ for people in debt.
Problem debt is often difficult to escape and can have a devastating impact on existing issues including family problems and poor mental health. It is only right that people who fall into problem debt are helped to find a sustainable, long-lasting plan to solve their debt problems. That is why I welcome the action being taken to protect those who find themselves in problem debt through a new breathing space scheme.
This scheme will have two parts; a breathing space period and a statutory debt repayment plan. Together, these two aspects of the scheme will protect debtors from creditor action, help them get professional advice on their debt problems, and help them pay off their debts in a sustainable way. Colleagues in the Treasury have already started work on this scheme by investing an additional £12.5 million in throughout 2020-21 in order to implement breathing spaces as soon as possible.
The breathing space will provide debtors with a 60-day period in which interest and charges on their debts are frozen and enforcement action from creditors is paused. During the time, debtors will have to seek professional debt advice to find a sustainable solution, encouraging them to seek advice earlier and give them the headspace to identify the right debt solution for them. The statutory debt repayment plan is a new debt solution that will extend the breathing space protections to debtors who commit to fully repaying their debts in a manageable timeline.
On the wider issue of helping those who find themselves in problem debt, the government-commissioned Money Advice Service is spending over £56 million to provide debt advice to over half a million people this financial year.
The Government has also put in place council tax support schemes to help local residents struggling to pay their full council tax bill, reducing the financial burden for many people across England. A further £500 million has been provided through the Hardship Fund to help vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.