Kate Langston, Intern, Money and Mental Health

Recovery Space - help us shape the law

Next week our Recovery Space campaign reaches a crucial stage. MPs will have an opportunity to debate the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill; a catchily-titled piece of legislation which, among other things, would pave the way for the creation of a ‘breathing space’ scheme to support people in problem debt.

Over the last week, we have been working with MPs from across the major parties to submit amendments to the Bill that would extend the protections offered by this scheme to people experiencing a mental health crisis. We are hopeful that these amendments will be selected for debate on Monday, and are looking for your help to get as many MPs as possible to lend us their support.

The government’s proposals for breathing space

The government launched a consultation on a proposed new debt respite scheme – also known as ‘breathing space’ – back in November, when the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill was still in the House of Lords. Under these initial proposals, people who seek advice for problem debt would be offered a six-week break from further interest, charges and enforcement action on their debt, while a repayment plan is put in place.

However, as our Recovery Space report shows, this would do little to support the tens of thousands of people each year who find themselves in debt at the same time as experiencing a mental health crisis. People in this situation are likely to be too unwell to manage their finances or seek debt advice on their own, and therefore risk missing out on the protections offered by breathing space. This is why we launched our Recovery Space campaign, calling for the scheme to be extended to anyone receiving hospital or crisis care treatment for a mental health problem.

I attempted suicide twice while I was in spiralling debt, I just couldn’t see a way out. If someone had given me a window, just put a pause on everything to allow me to get some help, that would have been fantastic.” – Lee, Expert by Experience

Our amendments

As part of our campaign, we have been working with a cross-party group of MPs – Luciana Berger, Johnny Mercer and Norman Lamb – to table amendments to the Bill that would help us to secure this extension. In order to stand the best chance of these amendments succeeding, it is vital that we build as much support for our proposals as possible ahead of Monday’s debate. This is where you come in.

If you agree with us that people in mental health crisis should be entitled to a break from fees and collection activity on their debt while they recover, we are asking you to write to your local MP to persuade them to support our amendments.  We’ve put together some information on how to find out who your local MP is, as well as example email text, to help you do this. You could also think about ways to reach out to your MP on Twitter or other social media (although, as ever, we encourage our supporters to maintain a constructive, positive tone).

A window of opportunity

We believe these changes could make a big difference to the lives of thousands of people with mental health problems, as well as those who care for them. We hope that we can convince the government to adopt them, but we need to act fast if we want to make our voices heard before Monday.