I am pleased that the UK Government have decided to put this in place and have set out the mechanism for doing so. In Scotland we have the debt arrangement scheme, which was launched in 2004 and significantly reformed in 2011, and a breathing space is built into that scheme.
Over £200 million of debt has been repaid since the reforms in Scotland, and 6,000 people completed a direct payment plan between 2011 and 2018, so I am pleased to see in the consultation responses published today that the Government have looked at how the system works in Scotland and have learned lessons. It is clear that, where the Scottish system has the powers to do so, we have the ability to trailblaze and lead the way.
In 2016, because of the debt arrangement scheme in Scotland, we had the lowest proportion of over-indebted people of any part of the UK. As austerity continues, we continue to see increases in the number of people suffering under the burden of debt. In 2017 there were 2.4 million children living in families with problem debt in England and Wales. StepChange, the debt charity, has said that 60% of those in problem debt fell into it because of an unexpected life event, and not because of poor money management—something external happened that changed their life, meaning they could no longer manage their debt.
I am concerned about why it will take the Government so long to implement the changes. Surely, as they already deal with a similar system in Scotland, most creditors should be able to take on the changes fairly quickly and roll them out over a wider group of people. Could this be done any quicker than 2021, which is the date I have seen in the papers?