Social Justice

Breathing Space scheme coming in 2021 to ease debt harassment

The long-mooted plan will stop bailiffs and debt collectors from contacting vulnerable people in problem debt for 60 days

Vulnerable people who are struggling under the weight of problem debt will be offered respite from debt collectors under a new Breathing Space scheme.

The long-discussed plan will see those who find themselves in mental health crisis given 60 days where they will be safe from enforcement action from creditors while interest payments will be frozen to help them sort out their financial situation.

The scheme will be introduced in 2021 with the Treasury promising that it will cover a wide range of debts, including local and central government debts, such as council tax arrears, personal tax debts and benefit overpayments

People receiving NHS treatment for mental health crisis will not need to seek debt advice during the 60-day period too, the government has government.

“Problem debt can have a devastating impact of people’s lives, putting a huge burden on individuals which can lead to family breakdown, stress and mental health issues,” said City Minister John Glen.

“No one should be stuck in an endless cycle of debt and facing the ever-looming threat of invasive debt collectors.

“That’s why I’m introducing this new scheme, giving everyone access to the advice, time and support they need to both get their finances under control and get away from the perpetual stress and worry debt can cause.”

Glen was involved in a parliamentary debate on threating debt letters last month where the Breathing Space scheme came up.

It is hoped that it will protect people from the tragic outcome suffered by Jerome Rogers, who killed himself in 2016 after being threatened by bailiffs over his spiralling parking fines.

Jerome’s heart-breaking story was turned into BAFTA-winning drama Killed By My Debt.

It is also referenced in the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s Stop The Debt Threat campaign, which has attracted more than 6,000 signatures on their petition to change the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to halt harassing letters.

MMHPI’s chief executive Helen Undy welcomed the Breathing Space scheme.

“This scheme could genuinely save lives. Everyone experiencing a mental health crisis should have the opportunity to recover free from escalating debt fees, charges and the threat of bailiffs arriving at their door,” she said.

Debt charity StepChange’s CEO Phil Andrew added: “People looking for a sustainable way to repay their debts have traditionally had little protection, leaving them vulnerable to inconsistent approaches by different creditors that can harm their chances of recovery – something as a debt charity we’ve long felt needed reform.”

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