The Department for Communities has today launched a call for evidence to explore the establishment of a debt respite scheme in Northern Ireland.
The primary aim of the pre-consultation is to build on evidence already gathered and source further insight from the debt advice sector, creditors and individuals on the scale of problem debt locally.
Problem debt and the inability to keep up with regular bills and credit commitments is associated with a range of negative impacts on wider society, most notably poor mental health.
An estimated 175,679 adults in Northern Ireland are likely to need debt advice in 2022.
It is envisaged that any new scheme would incorporate provision for both a 'Breathing Space' and 'Statutory Debt Repayment Plan'.
The Breathing Space initiative hopes to provide headspace for debtors by temporarily pausing creditor enforcement action, interest and charges. The scheme also aims to help debtors access professional debt advice - and access it sooner - helping them reach sustainable debt solutions.
The pre-consultation will run for six weeks from December 14 to January 25 2023 with input sought from the debt advice sector, private and public sector creditors, voluntary sector and members of the public who wish to contribute.
To participate in the call for evidence, which will help shape the policy for any future debt respite scheme, go to Citizen Space