It was a pleasure on Sunday to see (virtually) the first Shipley Festival Concert of the new season – the 21st year for the Festival which we hope will soon be able to move beyond the “virtual”. The concert was recorded at Shipley and included music by John Ireland, who is buried in the churchyard. Ireland composed one of the loveliest of hymn tunes, for “My song is love unknown”. This, belying the beauty of the tune, he is said to have composed in ten minutes scribbling on a napkin! Also on Sunday members of the Council met (in person) at St Mary’s in Horsham for the annual Civic Service.
Both signs, alongside bustling streets and shops, of Horsham finally getting back towards normality.
However for many this has been, and continues to be, a desperately difficult time in all manner of ways – including for those who are in financial difficulties. These can hit at any time but with the impact of Covid these problems are particular acute.
I have taken a particular interest in how to support those in these difficult circumstances – which can both be the result of and can compound mental health concerns. As a member of the Financial Inclusion Commission one reform I was particularly keen to see implemented was the introduction of a pause in which those who run into financial difficulty can attempt to seek advice and get support. It is an issue on which I campaigned and am delighted this week to see the “Breathing Space” scheme came into effect.
The scheme will help those struggling to get back on track with legal protection from their creditors for 60 days, a freeze on interest and penalty charges and a halt on enforcement action. All ensuring that users of the scheme have the time to receive professional debt advice.
The scheme will be available to those in mental health crisis and receiving treatment who will receive the same protections during their crisis treatment.
The Breathing Space scheme is not a payment holiday, but it is anticipated that the scheme will benefit 700,000 people in its first year alone and will include those who are in difficulty with repayment of Universal Credit overpayments, other forms of Government debt and utility bills.
The scheme can be accessed by contacting a professional debt advisor. There are a number of national charities which can provide help with debt, this includes Citizens Advice. Our local Horsham branch can be contacted on 0808 278 7969.