Reports of loan sharks in Sheffield threatening clients with violence and even rape have strengthened calls for a new 'Breathing Space' policy to protect borrowers.
Police swooped on suspected illegal money lenders in the city last week amid claims horrific practices are being used to extract cash from vulnerable victims.
In the same week, one former victim told how he was nearly driven to suicide after being threatened with violence against him and his family.
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield says the disturbing revelations make it even more imperative to increase the support for those snared by loan sharks.
Speaking in a parliamentary debate on the matter, he said: "In Sheffield this week, there has been a crackdown on the growth in illegal money lending. It has revealed a world in which physical violence and rape is used to intimidate those who are not paying back money.
"Does she (Kelly Tolhurst MP, who secured the debate) agree that there is a depth and unpleasantness to the options that are available to people who do not have the opportunities that an initiative such as breathing space would provide?"
The proposed 'Breathing Space' scheme would provide anyone seeking debt advice with one year's legal protection from mounting interest, charges and enforcement action, giving them invaluable time in which to work out an affordable payment plan.
Mr Blomfield says the measure, promoted by StepChange Debt Charity and The Children's Society, could protect an estimated 1,905 families in his constituency alone who are saddled with problem debt.
"It can't be right that children's mental health and happiness is suffering as a result of creditors unfairly escalating people’s debt problems," he said.
“Families in problem debt need time and space to get back on their feet. By providing a period free from additional interest, charges and enforcement action, a new Breathing Space scheme would help families recover their financial situation and put in place a plan to affordably repay their debts."