Debt agency calls for greater compassion

Several civil servants have called for Sweden to take a more compassionate approach to people in debt.

Sweden’s justice ministry is currently working on the issue.

Unforeseen events in life such as illness, unemployment, divorce or bereavement carry with them an economic cost and can affect anyone, and senior civil servants such as Eva Liedström Adler at the Swedish enforcement service (Rikskronofogden), argue that the pervading attitude can not be “you only have yourself to blame.”

“For example, two years ago no one working at Volvo could predict that the bottom would fall out of the market,” said Liedström Adler.

Together with the Financial Supervisory Board, the Institute of Public Health, the National Board for Consumer Policies and the National Board for Youth Affairs she is demanding that the government develops a clear strategy to manage excessive debts and their consequences.

“We do not expect that all debts be written off but we want to have a clear goal,” said Liedström Adler, using the government’s homeless goal to illustrate her point.

“The goal that no child should be homeless gives us a clear picture of where we want to head.”

Over 400,000 people in Sweden have problems paying their bills. The figure is even higher if family members are also included. The situation often afflicts households with small margins.

“There are so many in debt with feelings of shame. A person in debt has told a maximum of three people,” Liedström Adler concluded.

The burden of excessive debt costs the society 30-50 billion kronor ($4-6.5 billion) in the form of increased medical care costs and production decline.

The responsibility to ensure that the burden of debt is not too great is shared between debtors and creditors. Kronofogden has in recent years been critical of fast loans that can be secured by text message and have led to many joining its defaulter register.

Justice Minister Beatrice Ask has recently received a report, entitled the Insolvency inquiry, which proposes easing regulations to enable the provision of help to a greater number of those defaulting on their debts.

The report has been submitted for a process of review and consultation.

With regard to text message loans the justice ministry will soon publish a memorandum with proposals regarding the marketing of loans as well as credit assessment decisions.