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CAS response to the Cabinet Office consultation: Fairness in Government Debt Management

In 2018-19, the Citizens Advice network helped over 270,000 clients in Scotland with almost 750,000 advice issues. With support from the network, clients had financial gains of over £131 million and our self-help website Advice in Scotland received approximately 3.7 million views. 

The Citizens Advice network dealt with 110,439 debt issues around half of which were government or local authority debts. Advisers gave advice regarding benefit related debt problems, our main UK wide government debt issue on 5,557 occasions.

CAS key recommendations to ensure fairness in debt recovery include: 

›      A review of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) debt recovery process and subsequent introduction of a revised system for managing debt that better reflects people’s ability to pay without experiencing hardship based on a robust holistic affordability check procedure.

›      Consideration of the write-off of historic Tax Credit debt and other historic benefit overpayment debt.

›      A DWP Debt Management escalation line open to money and debt advisers.

›      Government bodies should have debt adjudicators/reviewers who are not embedded in the department concerned. They should have similar criteria to the Financial Ombudsman Service i.e. rulings are based on fairness and in this case also practicality of collection.

Debbie Horne, Jemiel Benson
Publication date
September 2020
Publication type
Number of pages