Responding to the Breathing Space Scheme

As many people have been writing to their MPs about Reset The Debt, we have built up a picture of responses. Many Conservative MPs’ responses are addressing the Breathing Space Scheme. Whilst welcome, the scheme – announced in February 2020 – does not come into action until Spring 2021 and does not directly address the issue of lockdown household debt.

If you would like to respond to your MPs comments on the scheme, we have provided some information to help you below.

Response to MPs about the Breathing Space Scheme

It is, as you suggest, important that the Government is already taking some action on tackling the devastating effect debt can have in many ways, specifically through the Breathing Space scheme. Delaying court action, bailiffs and eviction is always welcome. However, whilst these measures will delay the enforcement of debt, they will not prevent it. Though the breathing scheme offers some support, it is limited in scope and, due to its creation before the pandemic, it is not tailored to the urgent and unprecedented challenges millions of families are facing due to Covid-19.

Delay and deferral of debt repayment works for some families. But in these challenging times, where unemployment is at a record high and the job market is increasingly challenging, many families will struggle to return to a secure enough position to deal with increasing debt in the time period allocated. For some, lockdown debt has placed an additional burden on top of existing debt repayment plans. In order to help them utilise the existing repayment plans which they have been supported in creating, the write-off of lockdown debt is a neccessary step.

Pointing people towards professional advice is crucial. But for some, the burden of lockdown debt will be a millstone that pushes them beyond their ability to manage, especially in current circumstances. Removing this millstone in a one-off move to cancel lockdown debt will set millions of families free and able to move forward.

Finally, the Breathing Space scheme will not come into action until Spring 2021. This is too long for many families to wait, as they face daily challenges to provide food and essentials, and continue to build up debt. We need a more urgent solution – particularly before the challenging winter ahead.

Delay is neither a just nor an effective solution to the specific problem of lockdown debt. Unsustainable debts do not need to be delayed – they need to be written off. Our fear is that delay will serve to make the problem of lockdown debt easier to ignore, and allow the hardship of many families to go unaddressed.