Citizens Advice Scotland have welcomed today's climbdown by the SNP government on its proposed changes to the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS).
The Government had planned to introduce changes which would have restricted access to the DAS for many people. Following submissions from CAS and others, the Minister (Fergus Ewing) announced today at the Justice committee that he was abandoning his proposed changes and going back to the drawing board.
CAS Chief Executive Kaliani Lyle said:
"This is very good news. The Debt Arrangement Scheme represents one of the best routes out of debt for many people who would otherwise sink into bankruptcy. Some of the changes the government wanted to introduce - like a minimum payment threshold and the fixed maximum repayment period - really would have made the scheme very hard to access for some, and rendered it meaningless for others.
“We and others have been arguing for some time that these proposals should be abandoned. It is excellent that the Minister has seen sense and agreed with us.
"However, today's decision is not the end of the story. It is only a temporary 'stay of execution'. The Minister has announced he is going back to the drawing board to come up with a new set of reforms to the scheme. This means we all need to get back round the table to discuss the changes that are needed to make the scheme work better.
"We are very keen to be part of that discussion. And in that process, our single objective will be to make the scheme as open and accessible as possible to the many people who are struggling with unmanageable debts."
For interviews or further information, please contact Tony Hutson 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751 655.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
Last week Citizens Advice Scotland published a report, Drowning in Debt, which showed that the levels and amount of personal debt among CAB clients was increasing massively in Scotland.
It found that the average total debt of CAB clients was £20,193 - an increase of 50% over the last five years - and that the average person in debt has 6 individual debts - all affecting each other. It also found that for every £1 of income they were earning each month, those surveyed had £28 of debt, and many of them had gone without essentials like food and electricity to try and pay off their arrears.
More such figures are available on request.
The government's planned reforms to DAS included:-
- The removal of compulsory money advice from the application process
- A minimum payment threshold set at £100 per month or 1% of the total debt whichever is the higher
- A maximum repayment period fixed at 100 months
- The diminution of the role of money advisers, due to the transfer of administration to the DAS Administrator for all existing and new cases