Following findings that show Bradford has the second-highest proportion of people who are likely to have fallen into debt during the Coronavirus pandemic, Imran Hussain MP is calling on Ministers to introduce a ‘Pandemic Debt Relief Programme’ to provide urgent assistance.

According to the Centre for Cities, an independent research organisation focused on improving the economies of the UK’s largest cities and town, the share of neighbourhoods in Bradford where people are likely to have fallen into debt during the Coronavirus pandemic because of the impact on jobs and incomes is estimated to be as high as 54%, second only to Hull with a 56% share.

This high proportion of households in debt will have a devastating impact on Bradford’s recovery, as whilst cities and large towns in the South of England are expected to benefit from the easing of Coronavirus restrictions due to the household savings made during the pandemic as a result of higher incomes, allowing people to inject money back into their local economies, cities across the North of England like Bradford where people have less money to spend will be held back.

Failing to address the high number of debts accumulated during the Coronavirus pandemic will also leave more households who were otherwise financially stable before the pandemic, but who have suffered because of job losses and reductions in their incomes beyond their control, trapped in a cycle of debt and poverty that it will be difficult to escape from.

Imran has therefore joined with calls to introduce a ‘Pandemic Debt Relief Programme’ to allow households to deal with specific debts that they have accumulated because of the pandemic without harming their credit scores in the process, and is pushing for increased investment in debt advice services to cope with a growing number of people facing financial difficulties.

Whilst the Chancellor announced in March 2021 that the £20 uplift to Universal Credit which was applied during the pandemic will continue for a further six months, many, including Imran, have also called for a permanent extension, as well as an extension to cover existing legacy benefits to help boost the disposable incomes of the poorest and lowest paid in Bradford and support a local economic recovery.

Speaking on his call for a Pandemic Debt Relief Programme, Imran said:

“The Coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact upon the economy, incomes and household finances, dragging many people across Bradford into debt as a result, and it is wrong as we emerge from the pandemic and return to normality for these people to face the consequences of circumstances beyond their control.

“Ministers must therefore introduce a specific scheme to offer relief on debt that has built up as a result of the pandemic, alongside protecting the uplift to Universal Credit and supporting sectors of the economy such as aviation where restrictions are still in place before we witness the devastating impact of a ‘debt avalanche’ in Bradford.

“If we don’t tackle this problem and people continue to be held back by debts that have been accumulated because of the pandemic, then the economic recovery that we desperately need to see will be held back, and we will simply not see the levelling up of our local economies that the Prime Minister keeps promising us.”

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