There are currently no plans to extend the suspension of benefit deductions. Action to restart deductions commenced on 6 July and should be completed by mid-November. We recognise that there will be some people who may be experiencing financial difficulty, and anyone unable to afford the rate of recovery proposed is encouraged to contact the Department.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. These suspensions have provided a lifeline to many vulnerable people over the last six months. Unfortunately, there is at present no reason to believe that we will be in a better position in April 2021 than we were in April 2020, thus I urge my hon. Friend to consider extending the suspensions and working with local authorities to put in place fair local support arrangements that will operate in conjunction with the national welfare system and complement the Chancellor’s initiatives to get people back to work.
It is right that those claimants who owe the Department money are able to resume payments to reduce their debt. We continue to apply a flexible approach to recovery and endeavour to recover without causing undue financial hardship. Anyone unable to afford the rate of recovery proposed is encouraged to contact the Department so that an affordable rate of repayment can be negotiated. In May, we will be launching the breathing space scheme to help to prevent problem debt and provide support to people who fall into that problem debt.