People in problem debt to get 60-day ‘breathing space’ from bailiffs and interest charges
Thousands of people struggling with problem debt in the UK will get relief under a new ‘breathing space’ scheme which will block creditors from chasing them for 60 days.
As reported by The Guardian, under the new initiative, those in severe debt will be protected from enforcement action from creditors and bailiffs, while interest payments, fees and charges will be frozen.
The Treasury has also confirmed that those experiencing mental health issues will benefit from extra protection and won’t need to seek debt advice for the 60 day period.
Bev Budsworth, MD of The Debt Advisor Ltd said: “The idea is that individuals struggling with debt are signposted to debt advice agencies that are regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority and during this 60 day period they actually get advice and aim to put together a solution to their debt.
“This could be a debt management plan, IVA, bankruptcy, debt relief order or just sensible budgeting advice so that they are better able to manage their finances. Creditors will be prevented from chasing which will be incredibly helpful to provide ‘breathing space’ as well.”
What debts does the ‘Breathing Space’ scheme cover?
The government scheme will cover a wide range of consumer debts, including council tax arrears, personal tax debts and benefit overpayments.
The dept respite scheme will give individuals and families struggling with their finances extra support and time to get on top of their bills and payments before they spiral out of control.
The new measures will include a statutory debt repayment plan for those with problem debt, which will help people to repay their debts over a more manageable timeframe.
When does the ‘Breathing Space’ scheme come into effect?
The breathing space scheme is expected to come into effect from early 2021.
Many debt management companies have previously highlighted concerns over the aggressive methods being used to collect debts – which has caused people increased stress, anxiety and financial difficulty.
John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister, said: “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.
“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.”
The breathing space scheme was a 2017 Conservative party manifesto commitment.
A welcome change
The plans have been welcomed by charities and companies helping people with problem debts, with many noting that the scheme could save lives.
During the 60 day breathing space periods, those in debt must engage with professional debt advisers in order to find a long-term solution to their debts and get back on track with payments.
However, people receiving NHS treatment for a “mental health crisis” would not need to seek debt advice during the 60-day period.
They will continue to receive the same Breathing Space protections, which will last for the whole of their treatment.
Over 8.3 million people in the UK are in problem debt and record numbers of people are seeking debt advice.
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