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Breathing Space Scheme

Volume 654: debated on Monday 11 February 2019

15. What plans the Government have to include debts owed to her Department in its new Breathing Space scheme. (909122)

I helped to introduce Breathing Space as part of the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018. The Department for Work and Pensions is fully supportive of the Breathing Space policy. We also recognise the importance of ensuring that people can access advice in identifying solutions to their debt problems, and we have set up the Single Financial Guidance Body.

That is very good to hear, but 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?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, in relation to Breathing Space, the Government are considering the responses to our recent consultation and will respond in due course, and that the standard deduction rate for the repayment of a non-fraud overpayment of universal credit is 15%.