Millions of children in the UK are living in families trapped by debt. As charities and organisations who work with, and directly support, households struggling with problem debt, we see the impact this can have on the wellbeing and mental health of parents and children alike.
Too often people find themselves in the red because of unexpected life events like the loss of a job, an illness or the breakdown of a relationship. What they need is time and space to seek advice and get their finances back on track. Instead, they can face mounting interest, fees and charges and, in some cases, repeated phone calls and visits from intimidating bailiffs, all of which make it harder for them to pay off what they owe. While some lenders already help those in a vulnerable situation, many don’t; it is too often the case that those who do not act responsibly are those who are rewarded by being paid first. We now need to ensure that all creditors, including local authorities and other public sector organisations that collect debts, follow the lead of creditors that voluntarily offer protection to those households struggling with debts.
That’s why we are calling on the government to use next week’s autumn statement to introduce a legally binding breathing space scheme. This would ensure that people struggling with debts get protection from additional fees, charges and creditor enforcement action for a temporary 12-month period to stop worsening debts and recover control of their finances. As long as a debt repayment plan is in place, we want to see these protections continue to help people repay their debts in a safe and affordable way.
The provision of such a legal protection could have a hugely beneficial impact, not just on family finances but on the futures of some of the country’s most vulnerable children. We urge ministers to act.