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New Community Banks could transform efforts to reduce problem debt, CSJ report argues

A network of new Community Banks should be created across the country as an alternative to “exploitative” high cost credit which is driving millions of people into problem debt, according to a major new report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

Researchers revealed that two million people are driven to high-cost credit – such as payday lenders – every year because it is the only loan they can get.

The CSJ says red tape holding back successful credit unions should be torn-up so that they can be reborn as ethical Community Banks offering more stable loans and banking services at cheaper rates and on better terms.

It is part of a major package of personal debt reforms put forward by the CSJ that will bring fairer banking to Britain’s poorest communities and challenge the monopoly of mainstream banks and payday lenders.

The study says problem debt fuels poverty and a range of social problems. Almost half of people with unmanageable debt report that it impacts on their health. One survey suggested that a third of the UK's 1.5 million debt advice clients has attempted or contemplated suicide.

Restoring the Balance – part of the CSJ’s Breakthrough Britain 2015 series – calls for increased availability of debt advice and also recommends that employers should create auto-enrolment savings schemes to help promote a better savings culture.

The report, which highlights that household debt in the UK has almost doubled in a decade to £1.44 trillion, revealed that more than 300,000 people in the UK are too poor to go bankrupt because they cannot afford the £525 fee.

Read media coverage of the report by the BBC, The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. CSJ Director Christian Guy wrote about the report for The Spectator and researcher Joseph Henson blogged for Conservative Home.

Breakthrough Britain 2015 is studying the drivers of social breakdown and is putting forward a host of policy recommendations which are expected to be included in the manifestos of the UK's mainstream parties in the run up to the next general election.

The series has so far looked at economic dependency, family breakdown and problem debt. The next three reports, which will be published over the next two months, will offer solutions on addiction, educational failure and how the voluntary sector can do more to tackle poverty.

Half of the poorest children start school from broken homes, new CSJ report reveals

The next government must become the first in history to reverse family breakdown and confront a growing culture of disposable dads, the CSJ has said in a new report.

Fifteen-year-olds are now more likely to have a Smart Phone than their dad at home, the report revealed.

The CSJ put forward a radical package to get to the root causes of Britain’s family breakdown problem – including a plan to get urgent relationship help to the country’s poorest communities.

The report – Fully Committed? – criticises successive governments for sleepwalking into a family breakdown crisis, saying it now costs the country £50 billion a year.

Researchers predict that by the end of the next Parliament almost half of those sitting GCSEs will come from broken homes. It adds that one million children also lose contact with their grandparents as a result of separation or divorce.

The report highlights that children with separated, single or step-parents are 50 per cent more likely to fail at school, have low esteem, struggle with peer relationships and have behavioural difficulties, anxiety or depression.

The CSJ wants to see the nationwide roll-out of “Family Hubs”, which would include relationship support, birth registrations, ante and post-natal services and places where families could get advice on issues like employment and debt.

This will be especially beneficial in poorer areas where levels of family breakdown are higher. By the age of five, 48 per cent of children in low-income households are not living with both parents, according to Government data.

Read media coverage of the report, part of the Breakthrough Britain 2015 series, by the Sunday Times, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail. CSJ Director Christian Guy gave interviews to several broadcast stations, including BBC Breakfast.

Britain’s best poverty-fighting groups descend on Westminster for major CSJ conference

Charities have a fundamental role to play in tackling poverty and transforming communities, a former adviser to the Prime Minster told the CSJ’s annual Alliance conference.

Shaun Bailey, who advised David Cameron on youth issues, said it is crucial charities do not treat the people they help as victims.

He was speaking at the CSJ’s annual conference, which is held to celebrate the work of the CSJ Alliance, a group of more than 300 charities and voluntary groups tackling social breakdown across the UK.

Other speakers included ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen, the BBC’s Social Affairs Correspondent Michael Buchanan, Harvey McGrath from Big Society Capital and Mark Fisher, Social Justice Director at the Department for Work and Pensions.

As well as speeches, there were a number of workshops held throughout the day. These included looking at how to engage with media, evaluating the impact of work and appealing to grant makers.

More than 100 charities from across the UK attended the event. Photographs are available here.

Landmark Modern Slavery Bill progressing through Parliament

Bold new laws designed to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking – recommended by the CSJ – are progressing through Parliament.

The Modern Slavery Bill, which was announced earlier this year in the Queen’s Speech, was inspired by the CSJ report It Happens Here. Home Secretary Theresa May said the report had been the “catalyst” for the change in law.

CSJ researcher Lucy Maule gave evidence in a Public Bill Committee meeting earlier this month, after the legislation reached its second reading.

Under the new legislation, an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner will be established to hold ministers to account and measures will be introduced to confront the criminals who enslave adults and children, increasing maximum sentences to life imprisonment.

Read a Spectator blog by CSJ Director Christian Guy on the importance of the reforms here. Watch how the BBC and Sky News reported on the publication of It Happens Here.