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Tackling your debts

Bill proposed to give people in debt more breathing space

Posted 21 October 2016 by Christine Walsh

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New Bill hopes to give people struggling with debt a years’ breathing space.

A new Bill is being proposed to Parliament hoping to make a difference to the way that creditors and lenders are allowed to contact people for payment of their debts. It’s called the Families with Children and Young People in Debt Bill, and aims to give those who are eligible a years’ worth of legal protection from further action being taken against them.

Let’s look into the Bill in a little more detail.

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What’s in the Bill?

This is a Private Member’s Bill, which means that it was not introduced by Ministers. These types of Bills are not given as much time in Parliament and because of this they very rarely actually become law. These Bills are however a good way to draw attention to important issues, and the fact that it has been created and will be discussed in Parliament is definitely a step in the right direction. 

The Bill aims to stop lenders adding any more interest and charges to debts for a year. Lenders also wouldn’t be able to take the matter further from a legal point of view within that year, by trying to enforce the debt. Enforcement action includes doing things like sending bailiffs round to your house and taking money straight from your wages or benefits. As the name suggests, this Bill is designed to help families with children and young people in certain circumstances. 

This breathing space might last for even longer than a year, if someone can show that they can repay their debts in a way that’s affordable for them and within a reasonable time period. However, this would only be allowed when it was recommended by a debt advice agency. 

The Bill is also aiming to make advice, guidance and support more readily available to people in this situation by making public authorities provide this kind of information. 

The aim of this 12 month grace period is to allow people to get their affairs in order and put together a plan to repay their debts without the fear of the situation escalating and getting worse and worse. Proponents of the Bill hope this will mean that people in debt are in fact more likely to pay their debts, making the situation better for both them and their creditors in the long run. 

What happens next?

Nothing has been decided yet with this Bill. It was first read in Parliament on 29th June 2016, but it hasn’t been debated yet. The next reading of the Bill is scheduled to take place on the 3rd February 2017, and there will be a debate at that point. 

A Bill has to go through quite a few Parliamentary stages in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons before it can become an Act and part of the law. Throughout these stages, MPs and Lords are given the chance to scrutinise the Bill in detail, debate the issues and propose and make changes. 

As we said earlier, these types of Bills rarely become law, but the publicity they create for a certain cause can sometimes pave the way for change in the future. 

But I’m struggling with debt now

If you’re in this situation right now, you might be wondering what help there is out there at the moment. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for any changes in the Law in order to start tackling your debts – there’s help available right now. 

There are lots of organisations out there designed to help people through the difficulties of unmanageable debt, whether you have children or not and regardless of your age. You can contact a debt charity for advice and our trained advisors can help you too. They can explain your options if you can’t afford your repayments and recommend the very best solution for your needs. Just use the options at the bottom of the page. 

 

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.