Supporting people struggling on benefits

The Constituency View with Henry Smith MP SUS-170126-103725001
The Constituency View with Henry Smith MP SUS-170126-103725001

At the General Election in June I was pleased to stand on a Conservative platform to introduce a ‘breathing space’ scheme to provide support for people struggling financially after getting into debt.

Last week the Treasury published a call for evidence to provide individuals in debt with a ‘breathing space’ of up to six weeks to deal with problem debts.

The consultation will focus on what the scheme should look like to provide people in debt with a period free from further interest, charges and enforcement action. This would give people affected the time to take necessary measures by seeking financial advice about how to manage and relieve their debt burden.

While many people use credit successfully to manage personal finances, further support will be made available for the minority who get into difficulties.

Action has already been taken to help people manage their debts, such as tightening consumer credit rules and addressing pay day loans issues, saving borrowers over £150 million a year.

An additional issue I’ve raised with ministers is Universal Credit. Crawley unemployment has dropped by 61 per cent since 2010, but there’s still more to do.

Only eight per cent of Universal Credit has been rolled out, with the process scheduled for completion by March 2022.

Claimants will no longer need to go through the bureaucracy of changing their benefit claim after entering work, as it stays with them when starting employment. The previous system of hour rules and ‘cliff edge’ limits has been replaced by a taper rate.

I’ve been liaising with Crawley Citizens Advice and Crawley Christians Against Poverty, and have written to the Work & Pensions Secretary to follow up on their concerns.

Under Jobseekers’ Allowance, people were discouraged from working more than 16 hours a week, as they would then have to go through the disruption of moving from one benefits system to another. While some might be content with ensuring people who are able to work are consigned to a life of benefits, I do not believe that this attitude comes close to giving Crawley workers the respect which is deserved.