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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Freedom through Debt Relief

At 13 May the CPFE presented its latest publication ‘Personal Freedom through Debt Relief’ in the Brussels Press Club. This publication reports on household indebtedness in Europe and how faith-based volunteer projects make a difference in getting people out of problematic indebtedness.

The publication backs up a number of causes of debt with recent data, gathered by experts on the topic in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Hungary and Slovakia. In the second part, this publication aims to present the key success factors of volunteer-based projects for debt relief and its benefits for governmental institutions. It looks specifically at the Debt Aid Companion project in the Netherlands (in Dutch 'Schuldhulpmaatje', a project that is also mentioned in a list of best practices in a recent report of the EC) and the Community Money Advice project in the United Kingdom, both of which have successfully used volunteers over a period of many years to accompany people who are over-indebted through a process of debt reconciliation.

Mr. David Fieldsend, President of the CPFE emphasised that the CPFE believes it is crucially important to present a solution to a very real problem in our societies and that  faith-based initiatives can have a positive impact at society and solve very real economic issues ‘on the ground’.

Mr. Peter van Dalen MEP (ChristenUnie, Netherlands/ECR) highlighted in his presentation that experiencing high levels of debt means ‘darkness’ for those who live in this situation and that debt relief as described in the publication changes peoples lives at a very existential level. It is not just about money, it is about life.

This was underlined by Ms. Carla van der Vlist, board member of Eurodiaconia and chair of SchuldHulpMaatje (Debt Aid Companion) in The Netherlands. She described how deep and serious this problem is and how it disrupts families and that problematic debt therefore affects the whole economy. She explained how her organisation works together with local governments and trained volunteers to change these situations. 

Ms. Heather Keates described how “Community Money Advice” (UK) gives debt-ridden households and desperate people a new perspective at the future through a network of volunteers and ‘advice centres’ across the UK.  

Francesco Gaetano, Policy officer for financial services, Health and Consumer DG, Unit B4, - European Commission commented on the presentations and emphasised that this problem is now high on the agenda of the European Commission. In all of the EU many families have been hit by debt due to the economic crisis and they lag behind where the economy recovers. Furthermore high levels of problematic debts put a serious brake at any overall economic recovery.

The CPFE thanks all those who contributed as speakers and participants to this event. The CPFE thanks especially the whole team of writers and partner organisations, such as Encour, for their work and collaboration. Without all their work it would not be possible to present this solution to Europe of which we hope that it will be emulated across the EU.

>You can get a free download of this publication here<