Victory as new debt respite scheme to protect mental health patients passed after Norfolk MPs call for change

Norman Lamb MP is demanding action. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norman Lamb MP is demanding action. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Vital debt respite is to be given to mental health patients to protect them from enforcement action following passionate arguments by two Norfolk MPs.

MP George Freeman. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

MP George Freeman. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

Mental health campaigners have long highlighted a link between psychological illness and financial problems.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb argued in a Parliamentary debate: 'People often get into a vicious circle, with mental ill health leading them into debt because they neglect vital things and the pressure of those debts intensifying their mental ill health.'

But amendments to the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill passed in the House of Commons mean people in serious debt while under crisis care will benefit from a respite period where they are protected from further charges or enforcement action.

The move was welcomed by several MPs including Mr Lamb, who said: 'This measure will make a difference.'

Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online - Credit: Time to change/Newscast Online

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But he warned Treasury minister John Glen during the debate that many people will still 'beyond the scope' of the changes.

He added: 'It is important to get the message out and to establish proper processes in companies, particularly financial services companies, to treat people with mental ill health in an appropriate way in order to protect vulnerable citizens.

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'I welcome the measure, but it is a start and we need to do much more to protect people's lives.'

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: 'I echo the comments made by my neighbour, Norman Lamb, about the importance of understanding the vicious cycle of mental health and debt, and the way in which the two are so often implicated here.

'Recent figures from ComRes have shown that 56pc of people in work say that payday struggles are their biggest anxiety.

'Often that anxiety can lead to further complications in terms of depression, which can lead to mental health problems, which in turn can undermine their ability to earn and work.

He went on to say: 'So many people in our society still suffer in silence from debt, which knows no boundaries and is no respecter of class, political affiliation or geography.

'People who may appear at ease and prosperous — and often those who appear most that way — are struggling in misery behind the scenes and compounding that misery through their inability to feel confident enough to talk about it.'

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