Breathing Space Scheme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:08 pm on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Independent, South Cambridgeshire 1:08 pm, 19th June 2019

The announcement of the scheme is brilliant news and I welcome enormously the statement, and particularly the parts on the inclusion of Government debt in the scheme. I also welcome the fact that the Government have recognised the effect that debt has on people’s lives and their ability to get out of debt. However, I urge the Minister to look into the Government’s own policies—I suspect he knows what I am coming to. The five-week universal credit wait is a big issue. Advance payments are not the solution because they themselves are a debt and are putting vulnerable people further into debt. As I have said many times, the advance payment for the most vulnerable should be a grant, not a loan. As it is, we are handing out advance payments to around 60% of claimants. We are handing out the money anyway, so it is not going to cost us anything. It is just a cash-flow situation.

The Work and Pensions Committee has recently heard moving and horrendous testimonies from women who have been forced into sex work because they cannot make ends meet. We heard stories of women going into a brothel for around three days, working 20 hours out of 24 and coming out with £150 of earnings, and that gives them a roof over their heads as well. As our Prime Minister leaves office, I cannot believe that is the legacy she wants to leave behind. Please will the Minister look into this issue? It is also a Government debt.