In October 2016 I was delighted to launch my private members’ bill: The Families With Children in Debt (Respite) Bill. I have been honoured to receive significant support and was joined at the launch by a distinguished panel from the charity sector, including Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert and Yvonne Forvague MP, Chair of the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance.
Having only been elected one year at this time, I was indeed surprised to be selected in the ballot to bring forward a Bill so soon. However, as many will know, the welfare of children and families has always been a paramount issue for me.
That is why I was delighted to team up with The Children’s Society once again with their campaign to introduce a ‘Breathing Space’ scheme for vulnerable people and families in debt. With the valuable assistance from Step Change debt charity and others from the sector, we have been able to produce a Bill and plan to build momentum around the issue.
When it comes to problem debt, there is often unnecessary complications around getting the help and support needed to return to stability. Unfortunately, too many people don’t seek advice on their debt soon enough and creditors are not always giving people the help they need when they need it.
Problem debt typically arises as a result of an income shock, such as sudden loss of employment or family breakdown, which can lead to a downward cycle of debt dependence and growing debt burden, at no fault of the individual themselves.
The Breathing Space Scheme will protect children and families in debt from the damage of debt enforcement and help them get back on their feet to repay their debts. Our energy and effort has now turned to ensuring the scheme delivers for families and does so as quickly as possible.
In Rochester and Strood alone, 15.9% of adults are over indebted accounting for over 13,700 people, many of whom could be vulnerable or have dependents.
Following support from across the House of Commons and Lords, the Government has now committed to the implementation of a Breathing Space scheme.
I am delighted to have been able to bring forward this new piece of legislation and showcase the best of our democracy for those families who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances through no fault of their own.
I am also thankful for the widespread support I have received from colleagues and charities, such as the Children’s Society and Step Change Debt Charity, in putting together a strong campaign, and I look forward to pressing forwards ensuring the Breathing Space Scheme works in practice.