Before I was elected to Parliament, I worked as a personal finance journalist and consumer rights journalist.
This was a fascinating and varied role, and during my time at the BBC and the Independent newspaper I had the chance to get a first-hand look at a huge range of the economic and financial challenges facing workers and families.
So I know just how devastating the impact of excess debt can be – and I’m delighted that the Government has taken a big step towards helping those affected by it.
Too often, people struggling with debt end up trapped in a vicious cycle. Struggling with an initial loan, spooked by looming deadlines and threatening letters, they borrow again to keep on top of their payments – and again, and again.
What they need is the opportunity to step back, take stock, and calm down. To break the cycle of panic and seek the expert advice which can make a life-changing difference.
That’s why the Government has announced plans to introduce a ‘breathing space’ scheme. Under these proposals, people will have the chance to get a 60-day freeze on all interest, default fees, and charges as well as pausing enforcement action. There will be additional protections for people facing mental health challenges.
To access this, debtors would need to engage with professional debt advice agencies and charities, such as StepChange. This would create a powerful incentive for more people to access these vital services, which can make a huge difference to those grappling with debts.
I campaigned for this reform, and this area has been a personal priority for me. I previously chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Alternative Lending and Financial Education for Young People, and will continue to push for compassionate, common-sense laws which protect the vulnerable.
That’s why I’m also very pleased that ministers have confirmed that we are going ahead with the Children’s Funeral Fund. This will offer families who lose children, either to death or stillbirth, up to £2,000 to cover associated costs.
Nobody wants to be worrying about money at such an extraordinarily painful time, and I’m glad that the Government has stepped in to help.
Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 04/07/19.