Our response to the Government’s Breathing Space consultation

Mental Health UK and the Mental Health and Money Advice Service has urged the Treasury to make sure that its proposals for a breathing space from creditors capture everyone experiencing a mental health crisis. We also recommend that those at risk of a mental health crisis receive additional support under the proposed Breathing Space scheme.

The Mental Health and Money Advice Service (MHMAS) was set up by Mental Health UK over a year ago and is the first UK wide service to tackle the issues of mental health and money together. At least one in four people with mental health problems are also likely to experience money problems, and being in debt can trigger anxiety and other mental health problems.  The service aims to break the link between money and financial ill-health. The service has successfully supported over 1000 individuals via its telephone advice and casework service and received over 207,000 visitors to its website (www.mentalhealthandmoneyadvice.org) in its first year.  Independent evaluation of the service has proven that the support provided has improved the mental wellbeing of its clients and increased their confidence around dealing with debt and money issues. 

Mental Health UK and MHMAS responded to the Government’s consultation on Breathing Space, which closed yesterday. The consultation sets out plans for a Breathing Space to allow an individual a pause from enforcement action and the opportunity to decide on the most appropriate debt management option.  The consultation also includes a proposed alternative access mechanism for “people receiving NHS treatment for a mental health crisis, either at a psychiatric in-patient setting or in the community”. This would allow individuals the protection of Breathing Space when they do not have the ability to engage with a debt adviser around a financial assessment, which is likely to be the case if they are experiencing a mental health crisis. The other element of the consultation introduced the concept of a new, statutory repayment plan, which would allow a debtor to repay their debts without fear of enforcement action. 

We have welcomed the Government’s plans.  However, we have recommended clarity around the definition of a mental health crisis to ensure it captures everyone affected.  Sarah Murphy – Associate Director for Advice, Information and Training, said: “We have also raised concerns that there will be many individuals who may fall between two stools in terms of the access routes to Breathing Space.  This is because in our experience, many of MHMAS’ clients may not be able to engage in a financial assessment with a debt advisor or stick to a plan but they would not fit the ‘crisis’ definition set out in the Government’s consultation because of their poor mental health. We suggest there may be a middle way option that would give people extra protection under the main access route but do not qualify under the alternative access mechanism.”

 

Additional Information:

Read our full response to the Government’s consultation here 

To read the Government’s proposals click here

See the Money and Mental Health Advice Service website

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