Responding to your MP

Hundreds of people have contacted their MP about Reset the Debt and MPs are now responding.

If you have got a response, we would love to see it so we can better understand MPs thinking on the issue. If you have got a meeting with your MP to discuss Reset the Debt please get in touch and we would be delighted to offer any support we can. Email us at enquiries@jointpublicissues.org.uk.

If you have had a response it would be great if you kept the conversation going and wrote back, responding to what has been said and continuing to make the case for a Jubilee to help the poorest families trapped in debt due to the pandemic.

We have prepared a guide of the points commonly made by MPs and our responses to them. There are also template letters to help you respond. Please use and edit these letters as you wish.

As you might expect the points made in response usually depends on the Party your MP belongs to.

Labour

Responses from Labour MPs have tended to be encouraging, if not fully supportive of the idea of a Jubilee Fund.

What they are saying:

MPs’ responses have recognised the scale of the problem often mentioning that 6 million people have fallen behind on a household bill since lockdown and that low-income families have been hit the hardest.

The solutions they are proposing are around increasing the amount of money that Universal Credit provides families. This is by keeping the £20 a week increase in the basic rate of Universal Credit that was introduced in March, and ending the 5-week wait for payment. They also often mention re-linking Universal Credit with family’s actual needs by stopping the Benefit Cap and the 2-child limit.

Our response:

  • It is great that MPs are recognising the huge problem of household debt racked up by low-income families due to the pandemic.
  • Families need sufficient income to meet their basic expenses and Universal Credit often does not provide that. Even before the pandemic many were left with no choice but to take on debt. Keeping the £20 a week uplift and the other improvements to increase incomes is vital to stop more families falling into debt.
  • We are however concerned by the large numbers of families who are already carrying unmanageable levels of lockdown debt. These important changes to Universal Credit will not allow those families to pay off their debt.
  • Even with improved benefits these families will be weighed down with debt for years to come. Many will be pushed towards eviction and still more being forced to use statutory debt solutions like debt orders or even bankruptcy.
  • We believe it is wrong that families should be pushed down this debilitating and damaging track because of the pandemic.

Our Question:

We welcome changes to improve Universal Credit, but they will not deal with the large burden of debt accumulated during the lockdown period. How would you deal with this problem of lockdown debt?

Conservative

Responses from Conservative MPs have tended to avoid addressing the issue of lockdown debt or our proposal for a Jubilee Fund. They have instead tended to talk about a proposed “Breathing Space” scheme which, whilst related to debt, is not a response to the huge increase in lockdown debt nor is anything approaching the comprehensive solution needed.

The lack of engagement with the substance of the Reset the Debt  letters that have been sent to them is disappointing and makes responding to the MP even more important.

What is “Breathing Space”

“Breathing Space” is a set of long planned and welcome regulations that come into force in May 2021, and announced before the pandemic. When a person seeks professional debt advice, it may be possible for them to ask for “Breathing Space” for 60 days. During this time, charges and interest on debts are frozen and lenders are prevented from making contact. The idea is that the person gets an opportunity to take advice, budget and negotiate with lenders before their debts spiral out of control. Breathing Space may also be extended if the person is having mental health difficulties.

The Breathing Space scheme was not designed as a response to the Covid-19 household debt crisis, nor will it be in place in time to help those who have been unable to pay bills or rents during the first lockdown, whose protections from court action and eviction ran out in September.

Our response:

  • It is great when MPs recognise that household debt is a problem – and likely to be a much greater problem as the result of the pandemic.
  • Additional advice is welcome and Government estimates indicate more will be needed
  • The Breathing Space scheme is – like all the measures that have delayed court actions, bailiff visits and evictions – very welcome.
  • Delay is however not a solution to the problem. After the delay many will still be pushed towards eviction and still more being forced to use statutory debt solutions like debt orders or even bankruptcy.
  • We do not believe that is a just outcome for families whose debts were accrued because of the lockdown. Moreover it is not helpful to either creditor or debtor and would be an active drain on enabling the economy to flourish.

Our Questions:

  • Do you recognise that there is a huge increase in debts and arrears that have been built up due to the lockdown?
  • Are their any proposals to prevent, rather than delay, those with unsustainable debts accrued through no fault of their own, from being forced through the long, debilitating and damaging statutory processes such as a Debt Relief Order, Bankruptcy or even eviction?
Scottish National Party

Responses from SNP MPs have been much more varied. It is clear that most are engaged with the issue and recognise that lockdown has led to a household debt problem.

The MPs have tended to focus on actions that the Scottish Government have been able to do to mitigate losses of income and in some ways assist those with problem debt. They have also focussed on improving Universal Credit – some by devolving social security powers further and others with proposals of rending the 2-child rule, the benefit cap, the 5-week wait and keeping the temporary £20 uplift in the basic rate of UC.

Our response:

  • It is great that MPs are recognising the huge problem of household debt racked up by low-income families due to the pandemic.
  • Families need sufficient income to meet their basic expenses and Universal Credit often does not provide that. Even before the pandemic many were left with no choice but to take on debt. Keeping the £20 a week uplift and the other improvements to increase incomes is vital to stop more families falling into debt.
  • We are however concerned by the large numbers of families who are already carrying unmanageable levels of lockdown debt. These important changes to Universal Credit will not allow those families to pay off their debt.
  • Even with improved benefits these families will be weighed down with debt for years to come. Many will be pushed towards eviction and still more being forced to use statutory debt solutions like debt orders or even bankruptcy.
  • We believe it is wrong that families should be pushed down this debilitating and damaging track because of the pandemic.

Our Question:

We welcome changes to improve Universal Credit, but they will not deal with the large burden of debt accumulated during the lockdown period. How would you deal with this problem of lockdown debt?

You can find answers to more questions about Reset The Debt on our FAQs page.