First thoughts on the Treasury’s Breathing Space consultation

breathing space treasuryThe Trust’s director of external affairs Jane Tully has a first look at the Treasury’s call for evidence on a new ‘breathing space’ scheme for people in debt.

It was a busy day in the world of debt advice yesterday – with a long-awaited Treasury announcement on ‘breathing space’ and the Financial Guidance & Claims Bill returning to the Lords for its Report stage.

Progress on ‘breathing space’ follows pressure form Peers on the government to deliver its 2017 manifesto commitment to implement such a scheme after a long-running campaign from StepChange Debt Charity and others.

The announcement itself is a lengthy call for evidence – with the proposal on the table offering individuals up to six weeks ‘breathing space’ from further interest, charges and enforcement action on their debts, if they seek debt advice, and the introduction of statutory debt management plans. It is, in effect, an extension of Scotland’s Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS), rather than the ‘extended’, up to 12 month, breathing space that many in the sector have called for.

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Exploring the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill – a debt advice perspective

shutterstock_258751613The Trust’s director of external affairs Jane Tully takes a look at the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill as it starts its journey through parliament.

After a rather lengthy process involving no less than three consultations, the government has finally settled on a plan for the future delivery of money, debt and pensions advice. Earlier this month the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill finally entered parliament, starting in the House of Lords, a clear sign that the Government expect the bill to pass without too much controversy.

What does the Bill cover?

The Bill provides the legislative framework for the technocratic sounding ‘single financial guidance body’ – a new Non-Departmental Public Body which, assuming the legislation is enacted, will be in place by mid-2018. This replaces the Money Advice Service, The Pension Advisory Service (TPAS) and PensionWise, and will centralise the government’s pensions, debt and money guidance offer for consumers.

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The Money Advice Trust signs up to the Living Wage Friendly Funder scheme

WeAreALivingWage FFThe Trust’s director of external affairs Jane Tully blogs about the Trust’s Living Wage Friendly Funder announcement.

Through our work at National Debtline, we recognise the role that fair pay plays in enabling people to balance their finances and manage their debts. The Living Wage scheme has played a significant role in addressing low pay across the UK and is backed up by calculations that reflect the real cost of living – which is all the more important at a time of economic uncertainty and rising inflation.

We are therefore pleased to announce that we have become a Living Wage Friendly Funder, accredited by the Living Wage Foundation – building on the previous accreditation we gained in 2015 as a Living Wage Employer.

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Finding new and innovative ways to get debt advice to harder-to-reach groups

Innovation Grants image 300 206The Trust’s director of external affairs Jane Tully blogs about the Trust’s Innovation Grants programme and the three new projects that will be supported over 2017/18.

Alongside the work that the Trust does to support people and small businesses to deal with their debts through National Debtline, Business Debtline and Wiseradviser, we are also proud of another, smaller, branch of our work – the Innovation Grants Programme.

Now in its sixth year, the programme has already supported 29 grassroots projects across the UK to deliver money and debt advice, often in less conventional ways and serving groups that can sometimes be harder to reach through traditional advice channels alone.

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What might the Autumn Statement bring for JAMs?

shutterstock_258751613Tomorrow lunchtime the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, gives his first widely anticipated and heavily trailed Autumn Statement. Much has changed since the last major fiscal event, the Budget in March when George Osborne was still at the helm. For the new government, Wednesday will be a key opportunity to set out its stall in more concrete terms than we’ve heard over the past few months, and demonstrate that the focus on the domestic policy agenda hasn’t been lost of amidst the enormous task of implementing Brexit.

We’ve been taking a look at what’s expected to be announced in the context of the Trust’s work with people and small business owners in debt and financial difficulty and what else we’d like to see.

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It’s time for DCLG to step in on local government bailiff use

Stop The KnockHere at the Trust we have long been concerned by the use of bailiffs by local authorities – and our advisers continue to help National Debtline clients confronted by this prospect week in, week out.  I suspect most people would be surprised if you told them that the worst organisation to owe money to is often your local council – but the truth is that this is a big problem, and getting worse.

Our recent Stop The Knock campaign showed that 2.1 million debts were passed to bailiffs by local authorities in England and Wales during 2014/15, an increase of 16 percent over a two-year period.  Of these, 1.27 million referrals were for Council Tax arrears – itself a growing problem.  One in four callers to National Debtline were behind on their Council Tax last year – up from just 14 percent in 2007.

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The Queen’s Speech: what it holds for people in debt and financial difficulty

shutterstock_258751613Today’s Queen’s Speech set out the government’s legislative programme for the year ahead. At a time when the public policy discourse is dominated by Brexit, it gives us a glimpse of government priorities in a post-referendum world.

Given that the domestic agenda has inevitably been less high profile than usual in the last few months, it’s no surprise that there was a heavy focus in the speech on supporting consumers and social reform. For people and organisations working in debt advice, the key bills to watch out for include: Read more

 

The PFG review: What it means for debt advice

How easy is it for consumers to get the help they need to make good financial decisions? The answer, say the government, is that it’s not at all easy – in fact, it’s pretty confusing!

For many in the advice world, it may seem like a only few years since this same question was asked in the Thoresen Review, which resulted in the creation of the Money Advice Service (MAS).  Since then, we’ve had new pension freedoms, a raft of welfare reforms and savings initiatives, as well as rapid growth in digital services. These changes, coupled with  a rebalancing of the responsibilities of government, the private sector, regulators and charities, and on-going questions about the effectiveness of current support, render yet another rethink of how government-funded debt, money and pensions help are delivered. Read more

 

Meanwhile, in the rest of the Budget…

WhitehallAs fiscal events go, Budget 2016 was pretty fiscally eventful.

As the extraordinary political fall-out continues, here at the Trust’s insight and engagement team we’ve been examining what the rest of the Budget means for people in financial difficulty.

Let’s start with the good news first.  Many of the Budget’s measures on tax and savings will be widely welcomed.  Further increases in the personal allowance continue the government’s strategy of lifting many low-income people out of income tax altogether, which represents real help to many of the people who need it most.

Those earning more than £8,060 a year, however, still pay National Insurance contributions – a threshold that is now more than £3,000 less than that for the personal allowance.  Narrowing this gap is something we hope the Chancellor will consider in a future Budget. Read more