Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 9th April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bird Lord Bird Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of each of the six conclusions in the Royal Society for Public Health report, Life on Debt Row.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department is currently reviewing the six conclusions in the Royal Society for Public Health’s report Life on debt row.

The Government recognises that experiencing debt problems or a financial crisis can have a wide impact on a person’s health and mental and social wellbeing. The Government takes a comprehensive and strategic approach to reducing health inequalities that addresses the wider causes of ill-health, promotes healthier lifestyles for all and tackles differences in access and outcomes from health and public health services, underpinned by legal duties. Action is led locally to ensure the solutions put in place reflect the needs of individual communities.

The 2017 manifesto committed the Government to implement a Breathing Space scheme, with the right safeguards to prevent abuse, so that someone in serious problem debt may apply for legal protection from further interest, charges and enforcement action for a period of up to six weeks. Where appropriate, they would be offered a statutory repayment plan to help pay back their debts in a manageable way. A call to evidence to support development of the scheme was conducted between October 2017 and January 2018.

The National Health Service already provides some services to people who may be experiencing the symptoms of debt problems or financial difficulties. We are aware that some general practitioner (GP) practices signpost patients to debt advice services as part of their care and some practices have arrangements in place with local Citizens Advice Bureaux and debt advice services to provide outreach support in primary care. Mental health services, including Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services, may also signpost patients to debt advice services as part of their care.

In January 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would review the practice of GPs charging patients experiencing debt issues to complete Mental Health Evidence Forms when they require medical evidence for their creditors. The Department is working with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and a range of stakeholders from the financial and debt advice sectors and the British Medical Association to undertake the review, which we will publish in due course.

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