Alex calls for Breathing Space policy to be extended to government’s own departments

Alex calls for Breathing Space policy to be extended to government’s own departments

People are being forced deeper into poverty because the Government make excessive demands on them to return benefits often overpaid due to clerical and other errors, according to Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.

He highlighted in the Commons that a single person over 25 claiming universal credit could have £127 deducted from their benefits each month to pay any debts if the government continues with aggressive approach to the ​recovery of debt.

Alex asked Minister Guy Opperman if the “Breathing Space” policy to protect people in debt from excessive charges from other organisations, would be extended to those who owed debts to the Department of Work and Pensions.

Sadly all he got was mealy words from the Minister who refused to confirm that the Department would apply the rules to itself.

Alex said:  “Both the Treasury Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee have said that Departments take a disproportionate and often aggressive approach to the ​recovery of debt. A single person over 25 claiming universal credit could have £127 deducted from their benefits each month to pay existing debts.

“If the Government are determined, as the Minister says, to help people manage their debts, why is his own Department making deductions that push claimants further into poverty?”

Breathing space was introduced as part of the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018 and it gives someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from creditor action while they receive debt advice and enter an appropriate debt solution. The plan enables someone in problem debt to enter a statutory agreement to repay their debts to a manageable timetable.

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