2 years after the launch of the #StopTheDebtThreats campaign, the Government have today agreed to change the rules on the most distressing debt letters.
Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found that the intimidating and confusing language in letters sent to people in problem debt can be a trigger for suicidal thoughts.
After mounting pressure from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, activists and supportive MPs, the government has agreed to make simple changes to the rules about default notices, the most intimidating debt letters.
This comes three weeks after Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington, raised the issue with the Government at Business Questions, urging them to legislate to make the letter content more supportive to help save lives. Jeff sits on the Advisory Board of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and has worked with them on the campaign.
In response to these representations, Mr Smith today received the following letter:
With millions of people facing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19, the situation has been made more urgent, with the campaign victory being celebrated as ‘well-timed’.
The changes the government has agreed to make include:
- Removing the requirement for large chunks of text to be written in capital letters – which many of us read as being shouted at.
- Making the letters easier to understand, by adding explanations of complex legal terms where these have to be used.
- Updating the out of date signposting to help people find free debt advice.
Jeff Smith said:
“This is really good news. I’ve been pleased to support the #StopTheDebtThreats campaign in Parliament and in my capacity as an Advisory Board member, and was able to raise it with the Leader of the House of Commons just a few weeks ago. Now we know that the Government is starting to listen.
“We ultimately want to see them legislate to change the rules on all debt letters, but their decision to improve the language in default notices is an important first step which should make a real difference to people in problem debt. I’m grateful to Money and Mental Health for highlighting the issue, and look forward to continuing to work together for more positive change.”
Kate Alpin, Interim CEO of Money and Mental Health, said:
“We’re delighted that these changes are being made to the most distressing debt letters. But this isn’t the end of the story, and there’s lots more work to be done to ensure that the communications people receive from creditors when they’re in problem debt are as supportive as possible. We know that this should help businesses as well as customers, as more people should engage with the process at an earlier stage, when things are easier to fix.
“In the coming year, Money and Mental Health will continue to push the government to change the rules on all debt letters, so nobody has to receive outdated and inappropriate letters. And we’ll work directly with lenders too through our Mental Health Accessible programme, to help businesses make their communications as supportive as possible.”