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May 11

Action on mental health debt

I am really pleased that cross-party action by committed backbenchers has persuaded the government to make life a little easier for people with serious mental health problems who find themselves in debt.Recovery space logo

Thanks to pressure from campaigners and MPs from across Parliament the government will now extend its planned Breathing Space scheme.

The government has pledged to bring in a debt respite scheme, which would provide people with the chance to apply for up to six weeks free from further interest, charges and enforcement action. People would also be offered a statutory repayment plan to help pay back debts in a manageable way.

However, there were real concerns that people in a mental health crisis would not be able to apply.

I regularly hear from constituents about how their mental health experiences have made dealing with problem debts harder. Many tell me about receiving calls, texts and letters from their banks, local authorities and other creditors at a time of acute distress. Without support they are at risk of falling into further financial difficulty as a result of increased fees and charges.

Research from the Money and Mental Health charity points out that people with mental health problems are three times as likely to be in problem debt. Up to 23,000 of the most vulnerable people are affected every year.

Over 70 MPs backed amendments to the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, led by myself, Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and Liberal Democrat MP Rt Hon Norman Lamb to make it easier for people with serious mental health problems.

The government recognised the strength of feeling across the Commons and amongst the public and the amended scheme will now include how to protect recipients of mental health crisis services.