StepChange Debt Charity has published the key measures that it wants the next government to prioritise to address the harm of problem debt and to help households build greater financial resilience for the future.
The charity’s Scottish arm, StepChange Scotland, has produced a complementary version of the StepChange manifesto that draws specifically on the charity’s experience in Scotland, where debt advice and solutions are subject to different regulations.
In summary, StepChange calls on the Westminster political parties to commit to:
- Introducing an independent regulator for bailiffs (enforcement agents)
- Committing to continue the implementation of a breathing space scheme and statutory debt repayment plans to help people recover from problem debt
- Creating binding good practice standards for public sector debt collection and enforcement
- Committing to pilot a no-interest loan scheme in the UK to support those who might otherwise have to turn to high-cost credit or go without essentials
- Strengthening the hand of the Financial Conduct Authority with a clear mandate and responsibility to deliver a safe and fair credit market for consumers
- Setting out a strategy to reduce the number of people using credit for essential household bills, emergency expenses and essential household goods
- Strengthening the safety net, by improving the benefits system and making it more responsive to crisis needs – including ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit.
Peter Tutton, StepChange’s head of policy, research and public affairs, said: “It would be a tragedy for people in problem debt if the positive work in progress – such as the reform of bailiff regulation and the implementation of statutory debt Breathing Space in England and Wales – got lost somewhere between this government and the next. So we urge in the strongest possible terms that all the work in progress is carried over by the next government.
“At the same time, there is so much more that any government could and should do, especially in strengthening the safety nets that can help households build greater financial resilience, and protect them when unforeseeable hard times do strike. We especially urge the next government to commit to measures that will better support the financial resilience of single parents, adults under 40, renters (especially in the private sector), and people with physical and mental health problems.”