In May 2021, the Government launched its Debt Respite Scheme which saw people unable to pay debts become eligible for a ‘breathing space’, which means creditors cannot pursue legal action against them while they sort their finances out.
There are two types of breathing space – a ‘standard’ one, which gives legal protection from debt collection for up to 60 days, and one for those undergoing treatment for a mental health crisis.
The latter gives protection for the length of their treatment, and for 30 days after.
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Data from the Government's Insolvency Service shows 129 people were given a breathing space in Mansfield between May 2021 and April 2022, meaning 14.9 were started for every 10,000 people in the area.
A further 160 people were given a breathing space in Ashfield, meaning 15.8 were started for every 10,000 people.
Sue Anderson, head of media at debt charity StepChange, said while there were ‘lessons to learn’ from the first year of the scheme, it had broadly been a success.
However, she warned inflation is pushing more people into debt.
She said: “The steep rise in the cost of living has increased the risk of falling into problem debt – more acutely for financially vulnerable households, with StepChange data showing the cost of living is now the second most commonly cited reason for debt among new clients, up from the sixth most common in 2021.”
Across England and Wales, nearly 64,000 breathing spaces were granted in the year to the end of April – including more than 1,000 for people undergoing a mental health crisis.
They included 5,440 across the East Midlands.
A Treasury spokesman said: “We are proud of the breathing space scheme which has supported more than 63,000 people in problem debt – helping to get their finances back under control.
“We understand people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we have acted to protect the eight million most vulnerable British families through at least £1,200 of direct payments this year, with additional support for pensioners and those claiming disability benefits.”
If you are suffering from problem debt and need support, visit stepchange.org or citizensadvice.org.uk