With data from the Bank of England showing unsecured household debt rising at its fastest rate since the financial crisis, I am supporting calls for a new scheme to help thousands of families regain control of their finances.
Debt often strikes when people experience sudden changes in circumstances such as job loss or ill health. Aggressive action from creditors and pressure to repay debts at an unaffordable rate can lead families to cut back on everyday essentials like food, take out other, expensive loans or fall further behind on essential bills.
The rise in personal borrowing has led to mounting concern that households who get into debt need safer ways to manage financial difficulties.
Recent research from The Children’s Society found that children living in families with problem debt are five times more likely to be unhappy than children who don’t. Such a scheme would help protect the estimated 4,265 children in 2,445 families who have fallen into problem debt in Huddersfield.
It can't be right that children's mental health and happiness is suffering as a result of creditors unfairly escalating people’s debt problems.
I have joined calls in parliament to introduce a ‘Breathing Space’ scheme – supported by The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity - that would offer people seeking debt advice a 12-month legal protection from mounting interest, charges and enforcement action. It would build on protections offered under the Debt Arrangement Scheme in Scotland, ensuring that families sticking to an affordable repayment plan agreed with their creditors are able to tackle their debts in a manageable and sustainable way.
I’m pleased that the Breathing Space proposal has widespread cross-party support, including from the Work and Pensions Select Committee and the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance. The Government now needs to act by putting a comprehensive Breathing Space scheme in place.