Wage subsidies welcome but ‘equally bold’ action needed on household costs

The Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, has welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of the new Job Support Scheme, extended Self-employment Income Support scheme, and additional support for small businesses impacted by Covid-19.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said: “The Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme is another bold move to support people whose incomes have been hit hard by the outbreak. The extension of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme and greater forbearance on Bounce Back Loans and tax bills will also come as a relief to the small business owners we help.

“Bold though these measures are, however, the reality remains that millions of households continue to face the immediate challenge of meeting day-to-day bills this winter. Equally bold action is needed now across a range of household costs, including on rent, mortgages and council tax to prevent difficult situations being made far worse by growing debt.

“On rent, this should include protections in the form of no-interest loans for tenants who have built up arrears as a result of the outbreak. Changes to the rules on how council tax is collected are also needed to prevent more households being pushed into financial difficulty as a result of outdated collection methods used by many councils.

“A quick win would be to close the gaps in the mortgage safety net by reforming the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme, to help prevent a surge in mortgage possessions after payment holidays come to an end. This could be done by reducing the 39 week wait for payments to 13 weeks, and increasing the £200,000 mortgage cap that was set 11 years ago and has not been updated since.

“We know that there are millions of people already in problem debt. The Chancellor’s focus on jobs is welcome – but he needs to finish the job by supporting people struggling with costs through the difficult winter ahead.”