Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 04/07/2019

Solihull Observer

This week, the Government rolled out a measure I’m really proud of: the Children’s Funeral Fund.

Under this new scheme, bereaved families of young or stillborn children will receive up to £2,000 towards the costs of the funeral.

Nobody deserves to have to worry about making ends meet at such a horrible time, and the Government is right to step in and lift that burden from the shoulders of grieving parents.

Little measures such as this can make a huge difference to people’s lives. I saw this first-hand in my previous career, when I worked as a personal finance journalist for places such as the BBC and the Independent newspaper.

It was a fascinating and varied role, but it brought me face-to-face with the huge range of financial challenges facing workers and families all across the country – and nothing more so that the devastating impact of problem debt.

So I’m delighted that ministers have now confirmed that the Government is to introduce new ‘breathing space’ legislation, which will offer vital protection to those in financial difficulty.

This scheme will offer a two-month pause on fines, interest, enforcement action, and communication between debtors and their creditors, with extra support available to those struggling with mental health difficulties.

In exchange, users will be required to engage with professional debt advice services, such as those offered by the charity StepChange. These can be absolutely life-changing, helping people get on top of their payments and showing them a light at the end of the tunnel.

Too often, debtors are caught in a vicious spiral. Hounded by creditors and with deadlines looming, they borrow to keep up with existing repayments and suddenly a single loan is an unrepayable mountain of debt.

‘Breathing Space’ will give people trapped in those circumstances an opportunity to step back, calm down, and seek assistance. This will benefit everybody. Debtors will get the time and help they need to get on top of what they owe, whilst creditors will face fewer defaults and bankruptcies.

It is a big step towards the compassionate, common-sense system I have been striving for in Parliament.

Originally published in the Solihull Observer, 04/07/19.