regulation of Claims Management Services: Transfer Schemes

Part of Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 24 April 2018.

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Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Labour, High Peak 6:28, 24 April 2018

I will not detain the House for long. In a long afternoon of debate on financial guidance and cold calling since the ten-minute rule Bill introduced by Stephen Kerr, we have heard how important it is that so many people receive support and proper independent financial guidance. I welcome the work that has been done on both sides of the House, by Front Benchers and Back Benchers. As a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, I am glad that we have been able to contribute to the work that has gone into the Bill. I hope that Ministers will continue to listen to the arguments as they develop the Bill further when it returns to the other place.

We have heard in recent hours about people suffering from mental health problems. They are more vulnerable to people seeking to take their money, whether through cold calling and doorstep selling. As we have heard, mental health problems can be exacerbated by debt. I hope that the Government will consider widening the definitions of debt and of mental health crisis. I have constituents in High Peak who, unfortunately, even at a time of crisis and having attempted suicide, are unable to access mental health crisis support—in-bed support is not available, and there is even a waiting list for support in the community. I therefore hope that the Government will have as wide a definition as possible of people either receiving crisis care or on the waiting list to receive crisis care—I am sorry to say that there are waiting lists for crisis care. The definition should be extended to all debt.

Recently, I asked some parliamentary questions about the level of debt being recovered under universal credit and was sorry to hear that about 6% of current full-service claimants are paying 40% of their universal credit payments to cover third-party debts, leaving them with just 60% of a universal credit payment, which is already lower for many recipients than legacy benefits. Those people have already seen cuts and this is leaving them with even less to pay their debts.

As we heard from my hon. Friend Stella Creasy, companies that provide consumer credit can be ruthless in hounding their customers and often contribute to mental health difficulties. In this era of rising household debt, we have nearly £200 million of consumer credit. Independent financial guidance and support are needed more than ever. I urge the Government to ensure that as many people as possible can access it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.