Almost half (49%) of the people helped with debt by CAP have owed money to the DWP, HMRC or their local authority. In this briefing paper, we explore the experience of being indebted to the government and how debt collection processes create fear, leave clients powerless and render debts unmanageable.

A more consistent and coordinated approach is needed to support those in hardship. We have identified three key principles to improve the experience of debt collection by local and central government:

  1. Time
  2. Flexibility
  3. Consistency

The government’s proposed statutory breathing space and debt repayment schemes provide an opportunity to bring consistency across local and central government debt collection. It is vital that debts to local and central government are included within the protections so that they are effective in delivering the time and space needed to put in place a sustainable debt solution.

Key Findings:
A survey of 857 CAP clients finds that households in debt to local or central government are more likely to be on a low income and vulnerable, as well as facing hardship because of debt:

  • 64% live below the poverty line and 55% have mental ill-health
  • 69% had skipped meals due to debt and 46% were unable to afford toiletries and hygiene products
  • They are 81% more likely to have been afraid to leave the house and 41% more likely to have considered suicide as a way out of debt

The most common types of debt are Council Tax arrears, Social Fund Budgeting Loans and benefit or tax credit overpayments, and more than half (54%) have owed multiple types.

Focus groups with CAP’s debt advisers give insight into the reasons behind these client experiences and how these can also create barriers for advisers to bring stability and debt relief where there is local or central government debt collection. These are set out in the diagram below.

Download the briefing paper below to read more.

    Join in the discussion on Twitter using #powerlesspeople @CAPuk

    Contact our press team:
    01274 761924
    press@capuk.org

    Contact our external affairs team:
    01274 761985
    externalaffairs@capuk.org

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