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Campaigning to reduce the risk of problem debt

Our key policy campaigns and the research behind them

Debt causes physical and mental health issues, family breakdown, homelessness and lost employment and productivity. We're all affected by the large social costs that problem debt creates.

Our campaigns highlight the changes needed to reduce this harm, and how to move towards our vision of a society free from problem debt.

household spending icon The cost-of-living crisis

We're calling on the government to provide immediate support for households facing unprecedented rises in energy bills, inflation and household debt.

Read the StepChange briefing, The cost-of-living crisis: why the government should act now to prevent a tipping point for problem debt.

Covid Debt Rescue

We're calling for the Government to provide an emergency support package to help renters stay in their homes.

'Breathing Space' for those experiencing a debt crisis

'Breathing Space' for those experiencing a debt crisis

We've successfully campaigned for the government to introduce a 'Breathing Space' scheme to help people in problem debt.

Better bailiff reform

Reforms to bailiff law

We're calling on government to implement fundamental bailiff reform, creating better, independent bailiff regulation.

Access to safer and more sustainable credit

Access to safer and more sustainable credit

We want to see an alternative supply of affordable credit for those that struggle to access commercial credit.

Our campaign for 'Breathing Space'

The government made an announcement on 19 June 2019 about how a new 'Breathing Space' scheme and statutory debt repayment plans (SDRPs) will work. Breathing Space will come in during 2021, and statutory debt repayment plans will follow, probably in 2022.

  Read our Chief Executive's blog about the announcement

Our research shows that one in five people struggling financially have been unable to afford food after making unsecured debt repayments. And we estimate that in just six months a typical StepChange Debt Charity client would see an extra £2,300 added to their debts if creditors applied interest and charges on all their accounts.

We’ve successfully campaigned for the government to introduce a comprehensive 'Breathing Space' scheme to support people seeking help with their debts from a regulated debt advice provider.

The government has now committed to introducing a 'Breathing Space' scheme, alongside new 'statutory debt repayment plans', to help people repaying their debts.

In October 2018, the government published their plans for how these will work and released those for consultation. You can find out what we think of the proposals in our latest consultation briefing (PDF).

We'll continue to work to ensure that the final scheme works well for people in problem debt. In particular, we think:

  • The scheme should be flexible enough so that protection doesn’t stop for people who need more time to enter a debt solution.
  • There must not be any features which might put people off accessing the scheme – such as a public register of who is using it.
  • Breathing Space and statutory plans should be built on existing debt advice infrastructure where possible, and administration of the scheme should not increase costs or divert funding away from the debt advice frontline.

Read more about our thoughts on the government's proposals in our post-consultation briefing (PDF), and on our Medium.com blog  

6 in 10 of our clients who weren't protected from interest, charges and enforcement actions being added to theri debts, went on to take out more credito to cope.

Read our original recommendations for breathing space in our Breathing Space report.

Support our campaign for bailiff reform

Reforms to bailiff law in England and Wales in 2014 only had limited success. People in financial difficulty still report widespread problems with the behaviour of bailiffs and bailiff firms.

Visit bailiffreform.org   to find out more about the campaign, jointly run with other charities, and share your experiences with bailiffs if you've been visited by one since April 2014.

Our campaign for access to safer and more sustainable credit

There are too many families on tight budgets who have to turn to credit as a ‘safety net’ to meet the costs of everyday essentials and emergencies. This group are significantly more likely to fall into problem debt.  

8.8m people in britain are turning to credit to pay for everyday essentials

Credit products like credit cards, overdrafts and payday loans aren’t sustainable when used regularly as a safety net:

  • Our safer overdrafts campaign is calling for a reform of expensive unarranged overdraft charges. Read our response to the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) review of high cost credit and overdrafts.
  • We're calling for action to prevent credit card borrowing becoming long-term debt. Read our response to the FCA's proposals (PDF) for remedies on persistent credit card debt.
  • We're calling on the government to introduce a no-interest loan scheme, for those who can't access other forms of affordable credit. In the 2018 Budget, the government announced they were looking at how to pilot this, which is excellent news. Read our report on why this is needed.
  • We’re working with the End Child Poverty coalition to campaign for the government to protect families from getting into unsustainable debt from buying essential household goods through rent-to-own companies. Insights from our clients have revealed that financially vulnerable people are paying as much as three times the basic price for fridges, sofas and other items through rent-to-own.

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