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Breathing Space: Are there Lessons to be Learned?

Breathing Space: Are there Lessons to be Learned?

The UK Government has laid the draft Regulations for its much-awaited Breathing Space Scheme for people struggling with problem debt in England and Wales.

The new Debt Respite Scheme is outlined in Regulations made under the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018, and essentially contains two, new short-term, statutory solutions for people in debt.

The first of these is a Breathing Space Moratorium and the second is a Mental Health Crisis Moratorium.

Both are planned to commence on the 4th May 2021.

The UK Scheme’s are more far reaching than Scotland’s, in the level of protection they offer, but the dynamics behind them are different.The UK version requires more preliminary checks. Its like they don’t trust the debtor and miss the point behind a Moratorium.

Statutory Moratoriums

In the UK, the only Scheme that currently exists that is similar, is what is known as a Statutory Moratorium and has operated exclusively in Scotland since 2011. Initially introduced for the Debt Arrangement Scheme, the process was extended in 2015 so it can now be used without reference to any one formal type of debt solution.

Clearly the Scottish Scheme has been the inspiration for the UK Scheme, but how do the different Scheme measure up, when compared?

What are the Differences between the UK’s Debt Moratoriums?

How Long does a Moratorium Last?

The first point to note is which Moratoriums you use will depend on where you live.

Scottish Statutory Moratoriums can only be use by those who live in Scotland, whilst Breathing Space and Mental Health Crisis Moratoriums will only be available to those who are usually resident in England and Wales.

Another important difference will be how long they can last.

Scottish Moratoriums normally only last 42 days (although they have currently been extended to six months under emergency legislation related to the Covid 19 crisis, but this is due to be repealed on the 30th September 2020 – although Scottish Ministers can extend the emergency provisions for  another two successive six month periods).

A UK Breathing Space Moratorium, however, will last for up to 60 days normally.

UK Moratoriums, for those who are experiencing a Mental Health Crisis will continue to receive protection from their creditors for up to 30 days even after their treatment stops, and then will be able to apply for a Breathing Space Moratorium. There is, therefore, no time limit on how long the Mental Health Crisis Moratorium can be used for.

The UK’s Scheme’s are, therefore, more generous than the Scottish Moratorium, putting aside the current emergency arrangements in place.  Scotland also has nothing that is the equivalent to the Mental Health Crisis Moratorium.

Which Schemes offer the Greatest Protection?

Scottish Moratoriums are, relatively speaking, simple in the protection they provide. They stop Sheriff Officers (the Scottish equivalent of Bailiffs) from taking any legal recovery action, such as wage arrestments and bank arrestments and stop any creditor raising a bankruptcy petition if someone has registered a Moratorium. They are free to apply for and can be done relatively quickly online by either the client themselves or their money adviser on their behalf (although the client is required to sign the application form).

The UK Moratoriums, on the other hand will offer far greater levels of protection.

First, they will stop any interest, fees, charges, and penalties being applied to a Moratorium Debt by a creditor whilst it is active, and the Creditors will not be able to recover these charges even after the Moratorium ends.

However, they will also prevent a Creditors from commencing any court action to obtain a court order or judgement against the person in debt for a Moratorium debt or using Bailiffs or Enforcement Agents to recover the debt. They will also normally require a Court to pause an action where it has already been commenced before the Moratorium has been applied for and will stop landlords from applying for or executing an order to take possession of a property from a tenant, for a Moratorium Debt. They will also prevent mortgage lenders taking action to enforce the security they have over someone’s home, where the homeowner has mortgage arrears.

Scotland’s Moratoriums do not offer the same protection, albeit under housing and repossession legislation, Sheriff’s may choose to delay an eviction or repossession order where a Moratorium has been applied for.

The UK’s Moratoriums, however, also offer protection from utility providers installing prepayment meters and disconnecting gas and electricity supplies that the Scottish procedure does not (though it’s likely the Scottish Parliament does not have the authority to legislate to introduce these protections).

Other protections that UK Moratoriums have, that Scottish Moratoriums don’t, is they prevent lenders from relying on missed payments during a Moratorium to put an agreement into default, although it’s unlikely the Scottish Parliament would have such power under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, as it is a reserved matter.

In conclusion, even allowing for those areas that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate in, it is clear that Scottish Moratoriums have significant short comings in term of the level of protections they offer people in debt, when compared with what people in England and Wales will have once their Schemes are introduced.

One other issue is the UK’s Moratoriums clearly put a responsibility on the creditors to observe them and raise the prospect that where lenders do not, they may be liable to the person in debt for any losses they suffer. In Scotland, although it is incompetent for lenders and Sheriff Officers to take enforcement action during a Moratorium, few Sheriff Officers bother to check before acting. This often means people still get their bank accounts frozen and wages arrested during a moratorium, which can have costs for them. These actions are usually recalled once it pointed out a Moratorium has been registered, but as Sheriff Officers face no repercussions, they regularly still take these actions without checking. Its never been heard of a Sheriff Officer or Creditor paying compensation.

How does the Administrative Arrangements for Moratoriums Compare?

Scotland’s Moratorium procedure is administratively lite. The provisions that cover it are contained in 4 Sections of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 2016. The UK’s procedure is contained in 40 provisions in the draft Regulations.

The reason for this is simple. First Scottish Moratoriums do not offer anywhere near the same level of protection that the UK procedures offer.

However, another reason is in Scotland, there is a different legal tradition where all debts are included in most formal debt solutions, so the concept of eligible debts that exists in England and Wales for bankruptcy and IVAs, doesn’t apply in Scotland. The Scottish tradition is all debts are included, albeit, there are certain debts, when it comes to bankruptcy, where you do not get them written off at the end. Also, with the Debt Arrangement Scheme, some Creditors still deduct their debts via direct deductions from benefits.

This means in the Scottish provisions there is not an exhaustive list of what debts are eligible as a Moratorium Debt and which are non-eligible.

Also, the Moratorium in Scotland has also always been an emergency step that a person takes because of the urgency of their situation, especially when they may not be able to obtain advice before applying. There is, therefore, almost no eligibility criteria, other than you cannot have applied for one within the last 12 months (currently suspended because of Covid 19) and you must be habitually resident in Scotland.  Its for this reason, someone in debt can apply themselves.

In contrast, the UK Schemes specify what types of debts can qualify and which cannot. They also require a person to apply via an approved Debt Advice Provider and require that provider to be satisfied that the consumer meets the extended eligibility criteria, that includes answering the question whether they can pay their debts as they fall due. This undoubtedly will create a problem in a free money advice sector that is currently under capacity and inevitably will require advice agencies to carry out checks and verify information, before they are prepared to apply for a Moratorium. Often, in Scotland, the reason a Moratorium is applied for is to provide a consumer protection before this often-lengthy process is undertaken.

In addition to that, under the UK’s Scheme’s Creditors can request a review of an application for a Moratorium from the Debt Advice Provider.  This will undoubtedly place an administrative burden on advice providers, if Creditors or their Agents choose to use the option with any regularity.

Advice Providers will then have to decide whether to cancel the Moratorium for that Creditor within 35 days of the Moratorium being registered.

This forces Agencies into the role of having to judge their clients, and become decision makers, possibly making decisions that will not be in their client’s best interest. A role that is contrary to the fundamental money advice principle of being non-judgemental.

Where Advisers choose to cancel Moratoriums for one Creditor, this may also lead to other Creditors requesting a review based on the fact excluding one Moratorium Debt, and not another, may unfairly prejudice the interests of the other Moratorium Debt Creditors.

The problem is not made any easier, where the Debt Advice Provider refuses to cancel a Moratorium, as Creditors can then seek a Court Review as to whether the Scheme should be cancelled. This then raises the question of whether advisers will be expected to defend their decision and their client in Court, and if, they are unsuccessful, who will be liable for possible legal expenses incurred by the Creditors.

Advisers will also be required to carry out reviews of Breathing Space Moratoriums before the expiry of 35 days after it has been registered and every 30 days for a Mental Health Crisis Moratorium.

In addition to this, there are circumstances when advisers will be required to cancel programmes, if for example the client cannot be contacted.

Likewise, with Mental Health Crisis Moratoriums, due to the circumstances that clients may find themselves in, it is unclear how advisers will obtain credit reference agency checks for clients, when that client may be unwilling or lack the capacity to apply for one, or provide information about their income and expenditure, to allow the adviser to say whether they can afford to repay their debts or not.

What are the Lessons to be Learned?

There are lessons to be learned from the various types of Moratoriums across the UK, for all the home legal systems of the UK.

Scotland’s Moratoriums clearly do not go far enough and although when compared with the UK Government’s Scheme are simpler and more accessible, arguably as they don’t offer the same level of protection, less people will probably use them than the England and Wales Schemes.

The Scottish Moratorium, however, still has an advantage in that people who use the Moratorium Scheme can use the Debt Arrangement Scheme afterwards, which is a non-insolvency statutory repayment plan. This at least offers more than temporary respite for those struggling with problem debt and is not a form of insolvency.

However, there are plans in the pipeline for a statutory repayment plan for England and Wales, like Scotland and will eventually compliment the two new Moratoriums. Once that is in place, it is likely it could be said the English and Welsh systems will offer more protections than the Scottish Schemes. Particularly, as it appears the English and Welsh Schemes will mean the interest, fees, penalties, and charges will not be recoverable even if they come to a premature end, as people stop paying.

In Scotland, Creditors are still able to recover interest, fee, charges, and penalties, if a Debt Payment Programme is revoked.

However, the English and welsh moratoriums do appear like they will be administratively burdensome and will require more intensive advice to provided before people can access the short-term relief that Moratoriums can provide. It also appears this may be an obstacle for agencies wanting to provide them.

The Scottish Government, should, however, learn more from England and Wales’ Breathing Space and Mental Health Crisis Moratoriums and look to do more to increase the protections for Scottish Consumers.

They should ensure not only can a Statutory Moratorium freeze interest, fees, penalties and charges, but also stop Creditors from raising court action, once a moratorium is registered, and stop secured lenders from enforcing securities held for debts, whilst a client is using a Moratorium. They should also ensure no eviction can take place when a tenant has arrears on their rent and is using a Statutory Moratorium or paying those arrears though the Debt Arrangement Scheme.

All these powers are currently withing the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, and the only thing stopping them at present, is a lack of imagination and political will by the Scottish Government.

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COVID 19: Responding to the Debt Crisis

COVID 19: Responding to the Debt Crisis

As the public health crisis of Covid 19 unfolds, it is still too early to know the extent the financial crisis will impact on the personal finances of millions of Scots; but with over one million new claimants already claiming social security benefits across the UK; and predictions growth in the economy could fall by 25-40% this quarter, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate the effects will be severe.

Particularly, as almost 700,000 Scots were already struggling with problem debt before this began.The problem is unlike in the aftermath of the Credit Crunch, the free Money Advice Sector in Scotland is not in any state to respond. After 10 years of austerity and cuts of 45% to free money advice by local authorities between 2014-17, the Sector was already 50% under capacity according to the Money Advice Service. What that number will be after this crisis is anyone’s guess.


After the last Credit Crunch, we were in a much stronger position.

Between 2003-2005 there had been an additional £3 million invested each year; and from 2005-2007 an additional £5 million per year. In addition to that we still had a relative progressive system of laws that could help people.


Between 2009-15, there were over 140,699 personal insolvencies and 21,364 Programmes under the Debt Arrangement Scheme. This allowed Scotland to effectively respond to that crisis in a way that other countries couldn’t.


Take Ireland, for example. In the first quarter of 2015, they still had over 104,000 mortgages in arrears, and of those, 37,933 had arrears of more than 2 years. Limited in the immediate aftermath of the credit crunch by what was a Victorian era insolvency system, between 2009 and 2015, there were only 1,163 personal insolvencies.


The lesson is clear, if you want to recover from a financial crisis, you must have the resources and laws in place to address the issue of problem debt.
In addition to funding free Money Advice services properly, you need to think radically.


To begin with, Scotland could waive bankruptcy fees for everyone who is in receipt of income-based benefits, whilst increasing the maximum level of debt that can be included in fast track Bankruptcies from £17,000 to £25,000. We could also discount the first £50 of disposable income, so those on low incomes don’t need to unnecessarily contribute to their bankruptcy.

This could see 1,000’s debt free within 6 months.
We could also disregard the first £30,000 of equity in homes in all bankruptcies and avoid their unnecessary sale.

In addition to that, the new Debt Arrangement Scheme Regulations, passed only in November 2019 that banned all private sector fees, could be applied to cases entered prior to them commencing. That would assist thousands struggling to repay their debts and raise an additional £2-3 million for the free money advice sector.


We could also increase protections in bank account arrestments (last year there were over 170,000), so only a percentage of funds held in accounts over £529.90 is frozen, instead of the full amount, like with wage arrestments.


Such radical thinking is necessary, if we want to ensure Scotland responds effectively to this crisis, like we did the last one.

Covid 19 Information and Advice

Covid 19 Information and Advice

PROTECT YOUR INCOME AND FINANCIAL WELL-BEING

During the Covid 19 Crisis we are facing two threats. The first of these is the public health crisis of Covid 19. This page does not deal with that. That is for Scottish Adviserthe medical profession.  The second risk is the financial one. That threat has seen the financial well-being of millions threatened. That is the risk this page deals with.

My advice to anyone who has been impacted is maximise your income.

This page helps you do that by providing links to benefit and budget calculators and provides information on where you can get free advice locally.  If you have any questions, please post them in the comment section and I will try my best to help you.

Scottish Adviser

COVID 19 – GET ADVICE FROM YOUR LOCAL ADVICE AGENCY

MAXIMISING INCOME AND BUDGETING

BENEFIT CALCULATOR

STATUTORY SICK PAY

BUDGET CALCULATOR

INCOME REPLACEMENT

COUNCIL TAX CALCULATOR

UNIVERSAL CREDIT

DEBTS – DON’T LET THEM MANAGE YOU

PAYMENT BREAKS

DEBT ARRANGEMENT

RENT ARREARS

TRUST DEEDS

SHERIFF OFFICERS

BANKRUPTCY

Realistic Advice Strategy for Covid 19 Required

Realistic Advice Strategy for Covid 19 Required

Realistic Advice Strategy for Covid 19 Required

Covid 19 has exploded like a hand grenade in every home and workplace across our Society.

No-one feels safe. Any complacency we had only weeks ago is now gone.

We are now all facing a real, tangible threat to our health and well-being and that of our friends and loved ones.

Two Contagions

However, there are two contagions ripping through our communities at the moment.

First, there is the Covid 19 contagion, which is a serious threat to public health, the likes of which has never been seen since 1918. It will push our National Health Service to breaking point and every day we see health sector workers take the type of life threatening risks that they never signed up for: of going to work and not coming home.

Despite that, our Doctors, Nurses, Auxiliaries, Porters and Cleaners are on the front line, daily risking everything, including not being able to return to see their own children and families, so ours can be safe   There can be no question, that after this, we will all be indebted to them.

However, there is also a second contagion ripping through our Society, the contagion of financial failure and that threatens to be deeper and more enduring than the financial crisis that we witnessed in 2008.

Within weeks of the lock down millions have already been affected, with almost one million having to claim Universal Credit.

As staggering as these figure are, they don’t take into account those working poor that were already claiming it and because of falling income, will now see their claims rise. It doesn’t take into consideration those that are now eligible to claim, but through a lack of familiarity with the benefit system, have still not done so; or those only claiming contribution based Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance or Statutory Sick Pay.  Nor does it take account of the hundreds of thousands that will have to claim it in the weeks and months ahead.

Hopes that in three months time, the lock down will be lifted and gradually we will all return to some form of normality and these people will return to paying their mortgages and credit cards and loans, are as unrealistic and complacent as were our attitude to Covid 19 two weeks ago.

This will not happen, despite the payment breaks (where interest and charges are still being applied), despite the standing down of Sheriff Officers and debt collectors, despite the amnesty on evictions, despite the furlough payments of 80% of employees wages and the earnings of the self-employed, which won’t even arrive to June.

A New Strategy for Helping People will be Necessary

How long we will be required to address this second crisis, the financial crisis, will have to counted in years, not months. 

This will be necessary for a  number of reasons.

First there is the scale of the problem: it will be huge and complex and the advice sector in terms of money advice simply just doesn’t have the capacity to tackle that problem.

This was the case before this crisis with the Improvement Service reporting that local authority funding for free money advice had been cut by over 45% since 2014; and the Money Advice Service (the predecessor to the Money and Pension Service) reporting that Scotland was already 50% under capacity before this crisis even began.

What that percentage will be after this crisis is anyone’s guess.

Problem Debt Route Map Without Direction

Second, Scotland doesn’t have any strategy for dealing with Problem debt.

In January 2019, money that is raised by the Financial Conduct Authority from banks to fund the free money advice sector, The Debt Advice Levy, was devolved to the Scottish Government. 

A Tackling Problem Debt Working Group was established to come up with a Debt Advice Route Map.  The problem was, as I have previously wrote about (Route Map Without Direction) the subsequent Route Map that was produced, lacked any direction, because I suspect, as is common and understandable in a sector where funding is scarce, many of those who sat on the Group approached it with the attitude of what was in it for their respective organisations, rather that what was strategically best for  Scotland as a whole.

This was evidenced only months ago, when a decision was taken to just  renew all funding grants, most of which had been awarded prior to the funding being devolved.

A Divided Sector

Thirdly, if I was to be honest, as a Sector, the money advice sector don’t work well together. I say this as one of the few advisers who has worked for the public sector, the third sector and the private sector. 

The Third Sector don’t trust the Public Sector to give them any funding; the Public Sector fear the continued encroachment by the Third Sector, staffed by lower paid advisers and unpaid volunteers, who are often viewed as a cheaper option by funders; and neither trust the Private Sector, despite the fact they provide access to more formal debt solutions than the other two together. If any evidence is required of this, one only needs to look at the recent evidence gathering sessions by the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee of the Scottish Parliament in relation to Protected Trust Deeds. That descended into nothing more than private sector bashing eventually.

This is not to say that rivalry exists between front line advisers across the three sectors. The truth is, there is actually a strong level of solidarity between front line advisers, regardless of the sector they work in, as they are all doing the same job and face the same challenges.

The problem is, however, although it is true there is no shortage of work for all, there is a lack of funding, which doesn’t cultivate joined up working at a higher level in all sectors.

Scottish Government’s Response is Not Joined up

This lack of strategy will now be a problem, as will this lack of joined up working.

Quite simply if many of the protections that we have seen rushed in over the last few weeks are then rolled back over the next 3-6 months, the demand for free advice will overwhelm  the free money advice sector in Scotland.

There is clearly a lack of understanding of this problem in the Scottish Government who have already, in the middle of a lock down began directing people to Citizen Advice Bureaux, a primarily face to face service, through social media advertisements, like the one below.

This is wrong on so many levels.

First, all Citizen Advice Bureaux should be closed. We are all on lock down. If any are still open, they should be closed. The advice sector exists to help people and many of our clients are the most vulnerable in Society, often with serious underlying health problems. No advice agency should have their doors open. What we do is key, but in the context of this Crisis, it is not on the whole, life saving.

Secondly, although I am sure every Citizen Advice Bureau in Scotland is scrambling to put remote working in place, like every other advice agency, and offering services like telephone services from home, few of us were set up for this and we are all scrambling to adapt to the situation we are now in.

It is not an easy process.

Thirdly, to direct everyone down the one channel, when much of the advice capacity in this country doesn’t exist solely in Citizen Advice Bureaux, but across the sector as a whole, which includes Local Authority Money Advice Agencies, private sector insolvency firms, and national debt charities is ridiculous. Basically this is the recipe for creating a bottle kneck, that will quickly become choked and lead to many not being able to obtain the advice and support they need.

What would be more sensible would be for the Scottish Government to contact all local authorities and request they post prominently on their websites what local services are available for people (and most will anyway), with links and contact details.

These pages should also contain details of national websites and telephone helplines (most of which are partly funded by the Scottish Government anyway). The Scottish Government could then direct people to visit their local authority websites for information on what local services are available to them, which would contain details of Citizen Advice Bureaux, but also local authorities services, law centres, housing associations, foodbanks etc.

It’s clear to me this marketing campaign is more about the Scottish Government being seen to be doing something, rather than actually doing anything. It’s cover for the fact the Money Advice sector is in a very poor way.

It ignores the limited resources and challenges that all advice agencies are currently facing and does not even attempt to take a joined up approach to helping people.

A Strategy for Tomorrow

In the medium to long term, we need to now start thinking of a strategy for how we are going to deal with the problem that is coming down the line in a matter of months. The likliehood is, when the lock down is over, significant numbers of people are going to be traumatised.

Mental health problems will have increased, debts will have built up, households which previously survived on earned income will be workless and struggling with mortgages and problem debts.

Some will be struggling with bereavements.

The idea that this can be tackled with an army of volunteers, based on David Cameron’s Big Society, has to be shelved alongside the ideas of austerity.

The reality is most Citizen Advice Bureaux, like all advice agencies need more full-time paid, specialist staff to deal with the complexity that is the modern day benefit and debt advice sector we work in.

Don’t tell me we can’t afford it.

This is not the post war Britain that the Citizen Advice Movement was born into and their advisers have to be paid a wage that is commensurate with the level of expertise and skill they are expected to have and the level of responsibility they are expected to shoulder. They shouldn’t have to be claiming benefits and worrying about how they pay their mortgage as they help others do so.

We also need a more joined up approach between advice agencies, including the private sector. The truth is if you want to add capacity quickly, then private sector firms and national charities like Stepchange can help us do that quickly and recent changes to the Debt Arrangement Scheme, banning private management fees, will allow that to happen without the client suffering a detriment.

Equally, however, there will be huge numbers of people whose issues will be that complex, as will their wider needs, that face to face money advice services will need to work in partnership with other local support agencies, such as welfare rights, mental health, addiction and family support services. These will be required in greater numbers than before.

We need to be doing this now, as from experience I can say that skilled money advice workers can take between 18-24 months to train and we have lost a lot of that experience after ten years of austerity and cuts and don’t have that amount of time.

Maybe we could even ask some of those advisers that left if they will return to help us with what lies ahead.

Bank Arrestments are Forcing Thousands into Hardship

Bank Arrestments are Forcing Thousands into Hardship

The rise in the use of Bank Account Arrestments in Scotland (also known as Actions of Arrestment and Furthcoming) , to recover debts, is a growing cause for concern and forcing thousands of Scots to experience serious financial harm each month.


In many cases, the debt recovery tool that can only be used by Sheriff Officers, is forcing thousands of Scots into having to choose between buying food, paying rent or heating their home.


In the worst-case scenarios, the legal debt recovery tool is forcing many to seek help from food banks.


Even where the Bank Arrestments are not successful, because someone has insufficient funds in their account, they  still have the costs of the process added to their debt and banks add on a £25 administration fee (which when you only have Universal Credit can leave you suffering severe financial harm until your next payment).

Bank Arrestment Numbers Continue To Rise 

Last year in Scotland over 173,000 non-earning arrestments were executed by Sheriff Officers, with the vast majority being bank account arrestments (a 33% increase on the number since 2011-12).


These arrestments, once served, then force the bank to arrest all sums in the account over £529.90 (the Protected Minimum Balance) up to the amount of debt that is owed.


Unlike Wage Arrestments, however, Bank Arrestments do not restrict how much Sheriff Officers can take over the Protected Minimum Balance (PMB) of £529.90.

With a wage arrestment, only 19% of the amount above the PMB can be taken (until the monthly sum earned is over £1,915.32, when the percentage increases to 23%).

This means if you get your wages arrested and earn only  £1,200 per month, you will only have £127.19 taken. However, with a Bank Arrestment,£670.10 will be taken (assuming your debt is that or more).

It is no wonder, therefore, that last year in Scotland, when over 170,000 Bank Arrestments were executed, approximately only 70,000 Earning Arrestments were carried out.

Why arrest someone’s wages when, if you wait for them to be paid into their bank account, you can get £670.10 instead of £127.19?

Unduly Harsh 

Scots Law has always recognised the potentially harsh effects of Bank Account Arrestments, which is why in 2008 the Protected Minimum Balance was introduced.

However,  the level of protection the PMB provides is grossly inadequate. It has always been linked to the Protected Earnings Limit that exists in Wage Arrestments, but has never included the additional protection of restricting the amount that can be taken above the PMB.

Also, although it has always been possible to challenge a Bank Account Arrestment, on the grounds it is Unduly Harsh, this a Court Based procedure and can take over 8 weeks before you get a hearing in front of a Sheriff. By then it is too late and the undue hardship has already been suffered.

Statutory Debt Solution Review

I would call on the Scottish Government to use its recently announced Review of Statutory Debt Solutions as an opportunity to review what remedies consumers have when their bank acccount is arrested.

There is no question, that Bank Arrestments, one of the harshest forms of debt recovery available, are now excessively being used and risk bringing the whole procedure into disrepute.

Equally, how can leaving families, often with children,having to choose between  heating their homes and feeding themselves not be described as unduly harsh?

As an immediate solution, subject to eventually increasing the level of protection for funds held in bank accounts, I would urge the Scottish Government to replace the Court based procedure for challenging a Bank Account Arrestment, with an administrative procedure.

This would mean allowing people, with the assistance of a Money Adviser or Insovency Practitioner, to apply for a Bank Arrestment to be recalled or restricted to the Accountant in Bankruptcy’s Office.

Such a process would be free, quick and would also require the person  to seek advice, whilst avoiding them having to choose between feeding themselves and their children, heating their home or paying their mortgage or rent.